So many cultures have holiday rituals at this time of year, centered on bringing the light to the darkness, and love and peace to each other. Speaking here to my religious and cultural tradition, I know many Americans will be celebrating Christmas soon. Some of us will stay in our home, some will go to a relative’s house, and some will make multiple stops that day to see family and friends. Laughter and joy will be spread in most homes with children opening what seems like an endless lot of presents. For some people, Christmas is a stressful time. Many parents struggle to keep up with the marketing driven pressures to deliver a Santa-centric extravaganza. We, as parents, are faced with explaining to our children why Santa didn’t deliver the newest gaming console or why there is little under the tree. In actuality, for some, having a meal on the table and the utilities on is about as close to Christmas as it is going to get.
For those of us who can, we are filled with joy as we give our children an awesome gift or experience. But can we also explain to our children that there are some people who don’t receive gifts or have feasts on Christmas Day? Some families are grieving losses; some will be eating dinner at a shelter. Some families won’t have the turkey, ham, potatoes, vegetables, stuffing, and gobs of other food. Their Christmas dinner may just be a grilled cheese sandwich, for which they are humbly grateful. Too many of our children are unaware of the privilege of their comforts, and may take so much for granted, unless we teach them and show them through our example.
As a Christian holiday, the meaning of Christmas is to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. The origin of Christmas gifts is from the three wise men bringing gifts (offerings) to the Holy Family. Perhaps we can help our children refocus their vision on what Christmas is all about and explain the unfortunate reality some of their peers face every day. There are numerous ways we can spread Christmas cheer, including donating new toys to such organizations as Toys for Tots or our local community centers. The Greater Chicago Food Depository is always looking for donations and volunteers, as are local homeless shelters to prepare meals. We can involve our children, asking what they would like to give or do for others, and then helping put their goodness into action. Families can adopt the practice of assigning a percentage of income/allowance for ongoing practices of caring for the less fortunate. Or, your family can give up a practice, such as morning coffee and donuts, and elect to save and donate that money regularly to a local charitable group.
Christmas is about giving and sharing. We could all use a reminder that “it is better to give than to receive.” Consider donating items of food, clothing, and/or toys within your means. The holiday season presents us with the opportunity to share the heartwarming experience of spreading light, love, peace and joy to all. It’s not too late. Schools, churches, community groups, homeless shelters, and other organizations are always looking for volunteers and donations, especially this time of the year. And as a bonus, we learn that when we give, we receive: you will feel really good about yourself and those you have helped.
Happy Holidays to everyone. May you be blessed with love and family this holiday season.
Learn more about the author of this post: Jim Peltzer, LCPC