Why Don’t My Children Put Up a Christmas Tree?
I love Christmas trees, holiday decorating, festive foods and family gatherings. This time of year always brings back many fond memories of Christmases past with my family. They were not lavish occasions. Parents did not go overboard with toy buying. There wasn’t the over-abundance of toys that there is now. Technology was not even a part of our vocabulary outside of Saturday morning programs on that newfangled contraption called TV. We received more traditional toys such as Lincoln logs, tinker toys, a board game, books to read, train set, or a Tiny Tears doll or the first Barbie. Don’t forget a new sled. Christmas gifts were not complete unless we received at least one warm sweater or pair of socks. Fortunately, I never received the dreaded ‘underwear’ as a gift. A rite of passage around ten or eleven was finding a new bike under the tree. Yes, this was exciting and we were thankful. We were taught that less was more.
I have come to realize, now that I am older, that memories are not the same for everyone. Yes, I admit I experienced an idyllic holiday of storybook and Christmas card caliber… the innocence of the 1950’s to pre-Vietnam War 60’s. Many would say I was spoiled or indulged. Others might think I was ignorant. Some may rush to judgment that I am not compassionate or caring. Not so. Like your memories, my memories are simply based on ‘that’s all I knew’. I could only register what I personally experienced. I did not go without food, my family was traditional, neither divorced nor blended, I had a nice roof over my head, and education was the expectation. This does not make me a bad person! I am truly blessed.
While growing up, I was not made as aware as the children of today are, of the great need of so many families and children both here in the U.S. and around the globe. Yes, I saw people with tattered clothing and no boots for snow. Yes, I witnessed my parents and church collecting clothing, food, and money. I attended church sermons that talked of the obligation for each of us to look out for our neighbor and reach out to those who were alone especially at holiday time. On every street corner was a red kettle and bell ringing. I knew it was meant for good things, but I in my insulated world didn’t fully grasp the need.
As parents, I and my husband worked to maintain our ‘sense’ of tradition with our children as they grew up. I will admit we indulged the materialism of Christmas more with our children than what we had experienced, but we were like most parents. You wanted your kids to have the latest and most popular. Plus, there was sooo much more to bombard us.
Fast forward to the present. As I mentioned, I love the lights and magic of a Christmas tree, so we always put a lot of effort into our trees for our kids. I wanted our kids to carry on the excitement but I was brought to tears this past weekend when I visited my son and he not only didn’t have a Christmas tree in sight, he had no holiday decoration! My first thought was, “How did I so fail as a Christian and parent?” The knowledge base is much larger. I realize that I haven’t! The ‘need’ is much wider today. Along with world hunger and poverty and prejudice, just to name a few, is the tribulation of my own kids in today’s society. Few jobs, lower wages and higher costs, marriage is postponed later because of fear of commitment, and having kids is becoming more debatable with couples. There is increased feeling of many young adults of hopelessness and little optimism for better times ahead…and for my son and daughter, as one of the single without kids group, they do not put up a Christmas tree.
I choose to continue to encourage optimism and hope to my kids. With much pride and joy, I see greater character has come to my kids at a younger age than I. At their insistence, we focus more on helping those in need. Even with the challenges of today our family is so fortunate. We are much smaller in size as our loved ones have passed, but has given us new perspective. We reach out to others first at Christmas and offer help and giving to those in need. We focus on acts of kindness and volunteer our services first, on Christmas Day, before we celebrate with family. This is our new tradition and Christmas has become so much more meaningful and fulfilling. Postscript: I still love Christmas trees and decorating and will continue our traditions. My kids count on it even though they don’t say it! One day, I know they will carry forth the baton of family memories and traditions.