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It’s that time, again. Christmas time. It’s the time of the year when other parents and kids start introducing my children to the proverbial Santa’s gift list. Of course, my kids don’t know what anyone is talking about because my kids do not write out a wish list for Santa. Once or twice my son asked me about it, and I just told him that he does not need to ask Santa for gifts — Santa is all-knowing and aware of what all kids like.
And it’s not because I’m a curmudgeon or a Scrooge. I love Christmas. It is the warmest and loveliest holiday for me — but I don’t like what Christmas has come to represent. It’s all about consumption, greed, and wastefulness among children. People storm through the doors of the mall and smaller chain stores with scroll-long lists of gifts to purchase for teachers, their kids and spouses, in-laws, nephews and nieces, neighborhood kids, kids of friends — the list is endless, and no one really has such deep pockets — at least not anyone I know. Yet, they spend their money on gift cards and toys and scented baskets, their money expenditure fading out what’s really important about Christmas — being with your family, surrounded by love and deeply felt connections. Christmas today is all about the kids — as it should be — but it’s all about breeding greed in them. Spending hundreds of dollars on individual children is wasteful — take that money and put it away for College or buy them bonds for the future, especially now when none of us really knows what the future will hold. I don’t see the point on spending all my money on toys that will be forgotten after a few weeks or months, only to be replaced by new toys.
Don’t get me wrong, I love buying presents for others. Just not everyone and everyone’s kids I know. Among those who know me, I have a reputation for being a very thoughtful shopper/gift giver. When I buy for kids or loved ones, I think carefully about what they need or what their interests are in. And I do this because when you give a gift, it should be a personal one. I suppose this is why Christmas gift-giving has lost its appeal for me — because it’s done for the masses. When you have a long list of kids and family to shop for — you don’t have time to make each gift personal — so they get what’s on sale or what is age appropriate — or what really kills me — a gift card. There’s nothing personal or thoughtful about that. I don’t believe that kids should be given money, but that’s just me.
Which brings me to Santa’s list of “Gimme, Gimme.” I don’t have my kids ask Santa for gifts. I don’t want them to ask for gifts. Period. I don’t want them to grow up feeling entitled. Not even when their aunts call them from NY to ask what they want for their birthdays or from Kris Kringle. I never ask kids what they want. I listen to their conversations, I keep up to date with what kids their age are into, and when I need to shop for them, I shop for each individual child in mind. I’m old school. Kids get what they get, and they should be thankful they are getting what they are getting. There are kids out there that get nothing. And they should be aware of these realities. They should feel the glow of the advantages their lives are wrapped in. In this way, the gifts they receive will have more value to them.
I don’t use Santa’s name to get my kids to behave; I use God’s influence for that. But they do know that Santa comes to our house Christmas Eve and delivers one or two presents for each of them — because he is kindly and thoughtful. And my children know that what they do want for Christmas, they may or may not get from Santa, but it’s not polite to ask him for anything. Therefore, Santa does not receive any letters from our house, the way that he never received letters from me when I was little. And because I didn’t ask him for anything, Santa gave me presents without feeling obligated to do so — and it felt that much sweeter when I received gifts from him others.
The first present I ever received was from my adoptive mother during one of her three mandated visits to Greece before being given the right to adopt me. She gave me a nutcracker soldier. Because my childhood prior to my adoption was more about surviving than Santa and presents, it really didn’t mean anything to me — at least the toy didn’t. At the age of eight, I didn’t know how to play with him. But I loved receiving a present from my new mom — and that is how I want my kids to feel when someone gives them presents. I want them to be far and few in between, so that they will appreciate them better. I want them to revel in its reception and value the act of giving as much as the person who gave it to them — not in the thing. The thing — the present — is replaceable, breakable, an object. And that’s why a few weeks later, I gave the toy to my social worker’s son during a sleep-over. I had already received my gift — I was getting a new mother who wanted to offer me a home with her. The boy had never seen a nutcracker soldier before, and I gave it to him without thinking, without feeling the loss of its absence. In fact, I was filled with the feeling that comes when you give — it’s intangible, fulfilling, and lasts much longer than the actual present. I suppose this is what I want for my kids: to receive a present and have no qualms in offering it to someone else — because the other child likes it, because they like him, because they know that their relationship is deeper and more important than the actual gift.
And when my 7 year old’s voice reaches my ears and says, “Mom, all I want for Christmas is a ZsuZsu pet so that my other one will have a friend, to wish Jesus a Happy Birthday, and to be with my family,” I hear words that make me marvel at his genuine goodness, his spirituality, his innocence, and I know that I’m doing right by him.
What’s your take on Santa’s List and Consumerism?
While you’re typing in your response, watch Mariah Carey’s early version of the hit “All I Want for Christmas is You.”
Copyright© 2010 by Marina DelVecchio. All Rights Reserved.