This is an article Kam presents each year for the December newsletter. Believe in the magic of Christmas memories of family and loved ones. After all, there would be no Christmas memories without them.
Well, here we are again—Christmas time! The most magical season of all…
How is it we went from Christmas being something so magical and special at one time, to now being symbolized as frustration, anxiety, depression, and sheer excess for many? Now, I am not saying this is the case for all, but I know you would be hard pressed to argue with me that this isn’t the case for far too many.
When I think back to my own life, my Christmases were probably a little bit different. In fact, I think for a lot of new immigrants to Canada who are not from a predominantly Christian country, this is the case. You see, I came to Canada when I was eight years old and knew virtually nothing about my new country or its traditions and customs. I remember being in awe of what was happening around me for basically the first year. Everything was so new and foreign, from walking into a supermarket to visiting a McDonald’s. I was just inundated with so many new discoveries: television, Fruit Loops cereal, hot dogs, skating rinks, swimming pools and so much more.
I came to Canada in the spring and the very first winter here was a shock, as I had never experienced this season before. Suddenly, fall was gone and I got my first winter outfit: a winter coat along with some boots and mittens. Soon after that came the best part; that’s right, you guessed it—snow! I remember one day suddenly seeing these big white flakes falling from the sky and wondering what they were. I remember the thrill of catching them in my hands and, of course, trying to get them to land on my tongue.
Some other pretty incredible things also began to happen around this time. Lights began to twinkle on homes; plastic and wood characters began adorning lawns. As if this wasn’t enough, the most mysterious event occurred. Trees began appearing in windows of homes all lit up and sparkling. Even more, the windows had snow on the inside, and it wasn’t even melting! As you can imagine, this is certainly exciting for most eight-year-olds, but doubly so for one who has recently come to this country and has never experienced any of it.
This was also the time I was first exposed to Christmas presents. I remember the kids at school talking about asking this Santa Claus fellow for presents. I must admit that the image of a rather large man dressed all in red with a flowing white beard did seem a little scary at first. But like any eight-year-old I got quite used to it rather quickly.
Of course, after seeing all of these houses decorated, I encouraged my parents to do the same. We had a tree—a fake one of course. My parents couldn’t understand why people would want real trees in their homes. Real trees would cause a mess. They could possibly catch on fire from the lights. And the smell of pine is not something they wanted to experience. It really didn’t matter to me; I was just happy to have one, and more than that, excited about the opportunity to decorate it. Which is what I did! From what I can remember, there was still a little green left here and there after I was done.
As far as the presents, my parents didn’t really get the hang of the ‘surprise’ thing. I guess they just wanted me to be happy and ensure that I got what I had wanted. So they went ahead and took me shopping with them to pick out my presents. We didn’t have a lot of money, therefore they didn’t go ‘crazy’ getting things, but I did get to pick out a couple. I’ll grant you, there was no waking up on Christmas morning and discovering what was inside those boxes. I was happy just the same, and I even got to play with them for a few days prior to Christmas. When Christmas finally did come, my parents insisted on wrapping them up and me opening them on Christmas day. Parents: who can figure them out, eh?
So why am I telling you this? Simple. I just want you to remember what Christmas was like before it all got so crazy. Back in those days, the magic of Christmas was alive and well. Everything about the time was amazing: the sights, the sounds, the warmth. Remember when you were just happy to spend time with your crazy Uncle Stan and listen to family stories of Christmas past? It wasn’t all about having the perfect meal in the perfectly decorated home. It wasn’t about ensuring you got everybody not only the perfect presents, but an abundant amount of them. Success wasn’t measured by the largest Visa bill and highest stress level! Am I saying that you should never shop again? Absolutely not. All I’m saying is ‘keep your eye on the prize’: family and loved ones!
When I look back on those days today, I’m hard pressed to remember what I got, but I can easily remember what I felt—happy! So this Christmas, try creating more memories and buying less things. I can guarantee you they will last far longer.
Not only put a limit on your spending, but more importantly, stick to it. If you can avoid getting caught in all the commercialism and madness of Christmas, you just might find you will come out a lot saner and with a much smaller Visa bill in January to boot. Imagine starting the new year without dreading your credit card statements and then working like a dog for the next few months just to pay them off. Imagine not having to take on so much overtime at work, time that robs you of valuable time with your family. The choice, my friends, is yours. I’m not here to preach or teach; I’m just a firm believer that there is a better way, but choosing it is entirely up to you!
This post was originally published December 15, 2011.