Christmas Spirit Revisited
GIVING: Can be a source of joy

Once upon a time, I was a big fan of Christmas. Or maybe I should say twice upon a time.

The first was when I was a little kid.It had nothing to do with Christianity or good will towards my fellow men; it was all about gifts, and since I didn’t have any money it was one way traffic and I didn’t have to do any shopping.

In my defence, however, I did enjoy going out with my brother and sisters to help my parents buy a tree, and I loved spending lots of time with all of them around the house.

Then, when I had kids of my own, I fell in love with Christmas all over again, but this time it was more about sharing in my family’s joy as they anticipated and received their gifts.

Between those times, and after the girls grew up, however, I have often struggled to find the festive spirit.

That may be because unrealistic expectations and disappointment are common at this time of year.

I believe one of my younger daughter’s first experiences with the big day may help demonstrate what I mean.

At the time, my wife was teaching and my eldest daughter was in Standard two at John Mackenzie so we took advantage of the holidays to explore western Botswana and a bit of South Africa.

By Christmas Eve, we found ourselves camping in the Western Cape with a view of the ocean and something that resembled a Christmas tree growing just outside the tent.

Maggie was three-and-a-half years-old, and she had no idea what was coming.

When the kids fell asleep, we dug several small gifts out of their hiding places in the truck, put them in two hessian sacks and hung them on the tent poles.

Tess knew Christmas meant gifts so when she spotted the bags she was both thrilled and relieved that Santa had found her in the campground.

Maggie, meanwhile, could not believe her luck.

A bag of toys and other fun stuff hanging on the tent; what could be better? Both the girls had a wonderful day but the thing Maggie didn’t understand was that Christmas only comes once a year.

So, early the next morning, she popped out of her sleeping bag only to discover there were no new gifts hanging outside.

Suddenly the world was not the generous play land it had appeared to be 24 hours earlier and she was devastated.

I’ve got a few laughs out of that story, but at the time, it wasn’t funny to my daughter and I do not think that was a surprising reaction.

Most of us can relate to not getting something we were hoping to receive… and I think that’s part of the reason I’ve struggled with holiday.

It can bring out the more selfish side of our nature. The thing is, if we stick at it and select our gifts carefully and maybe even make a few, the season might help us appreciate that we get more joy from giving than we do from receiving gifts.

That sounds very worthwhile, so I suppose I now should say I’ve been a fan of Christmas thrice upon a time.

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