I remember being more excited about Christmas than my kids.
Back in the day, when my children were little and still believed in Santa Claus, Christmas was one of the most amazing holidays for me on the calendar.
I couldn’t wait to put the decorations up after Thanksgiving had passed. I was lucky enough at the time to have a real fireplace, too! No “Yule Log” on TV for us!
Creating an awesome experience for them was my goal. There was nothing better than watching them open their presents, and seeing their eyes light up with wonder and glee!
I also taught them the true meaning of Christmas, and why we celebrated it. When they got older, they were able to understand how Christmas trees came into being, where the concept of Santa Claus originated, and why late December was chosen for the celebration by early Christians.
Something amazing to me was our Jewish friends who celebrated Christmas, too. Why in the world would they do that? And if someone isn’t religious at all, why would they celebrate? I understood intellectually that Christmas had become a secular holiday, and most of society got in on the gift-giving - even corporations. But why did it have to be all about presents?
As I got older, the kids weren’t as excited about their gifts. The celebrations became centered around having days off from school or work, and eating. Why had the celebration lost its luster?
Everyone is now far-flung, moving away for their careers. I still got to see my grandson get excited over gifts, but holidays - ALL the holidays, not just Christmas - started to lose their excitement. We had become caught up in our daily lives; the turmoil of work, school, bill paying, existence.
During the lockdowns, social distancing, and retreat into our own homes, spaces, and heads, we still managed to do Zoom Holidays. We’d spend an hour or two chatting about what was going on in our own germ-free(ish) bubbles. Gifts got mailed. Fear of getting sick was real for me, since I have asthma. The world was chafing. As much as I missed my family, I was still happy to be working exclusively from home, isolated in my sanctuary. I mean, after all, I could throw on a blouse and work in my jammie pants and slippers! How could that be a bad thing?
For some reason, this past Thanksgiving, I decided I really wanted to see my kids. I was vaccinated, and so were they. Damn the virus! If I get sick, then I get sick. So be it.
As I pulled onto my older daughter’s street and searched for parking, I saw a little boy running up and down the street, looking at me and my car. “Who is this kid?” I thought to myself. It was my 8 year old grandson. He was so excited that I was coming over, he insisted on his father bringing him outside to wait for me. When I got out of the car, he grabbed me in a hug and wouldn’t let go.
When I went inside, I saw my daughter in person for the first time in 2 years. We both broke down in tears. I sobbed because I missed her so much, and she is so very valuable to me. When my other children arrived, I was overwhelmed with love for them. One of my sons is in Seattle, and couldn’t be with us. He was sorely missed.
This, my friends, is the biggest significance of all the holidays of the year. Here is the value in their true meanings. Yes, we might be observing customs, beliefs, paying respect to a Higher Power, or celebrating an event in time; but the love of a parent for a child, spouses toward each other, between siblings and among friends - no matter how contentious those relationships might be - provides more power than any gift, meal, or parade. Recognize this. Act on it. Remember how truly important we all are to each other. This is what holidays are all about.
Susan Petang is a Certified Stress Management Coach who specializes in divorce, author of two books, and member of the National Association of Divorce Professionals. You can learn more about her and her programs at www.thequietzonecoaching.com.