A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

A Little Bit More

Posted on: December 8, 2015

As a child, I loved How the Grinch Stole Christmas, both the book and the animated special. In fact, I still watch the show each December.

Remember how the Grinch was mystified that Christmas had come to Whoville without decorations and rafts of presents until he realized that, perhaps, there was a little bit more to the celebration?

As Christians, we know there’s more to it, even if our culture doesn’t always reflect it. Flyer bundles become fatter as December wears on, each ad describing that store’s amazing deals. Evening traffic is heavier than usual as people try to fit in a little Christmas shopping on their way home from work. Shoppers scan parking lots, normally only partly full, in the hopes of finding a convenient parking spot, or any spot at all.

A CBC story last year on “Christmas traditions: Why do we give gifts at Christmas?” tells us that “The common explanation is that gifts are given at Christmas to remind those celebrating the holiday of the gifts brought to the baby Jesus to celebrate his birth.” We read about this in Matthew 2:10-11*:

When [the Wise Men] saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy; and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

Too often, we forget the worship part. We skip over Advent services, church pageants, and Christmas Eve or Christmas Day Mass and head straight for the gift giving.

But we don’t need to buy into the pressure to bury our loved ones in presents. We can give fewer gifts that will truly mean something to the recipients, thinking about their interests and likes. For example, last year, I gave my father a huge frame filled with old pictures of his parents and extended family, and this year, part of his gift will be some homemade rye bread; I’ve also made some other presents, such as an apron decorated with hand-drawn pieces of sushi for a niece who likes to cook and is interested in Asian cultures.

And we don’t need to buy into the pressure to cram activities into every moment leading up to the big day. We can decorate and entertain the way we like, not the way the magazines tell us we should. We can bake a few kinds of cookies or have a cookie swap or skip the cookies entirely. And we can give our loved ones the gift of our time in making gifts for or with them; wrapping presents, doing holiday baking or decorating the house together; going skiing, sledding or skating together and enjoying a hot chocolate after; or hunkering down on a cold day and enjoying a movie or game night as a family. My husband usually takes some time off work at Christmas, and over the years we’ve gone tobogganing, enjoyed the Christmas Treats Walk at the Toronto Zoo, taken in a Disney on Ice show or two, and had lots of game and movie nights and dinners as a family—something we don’t always get to do in an average busy week.

reindeer and geese

Reindeer (and Canada geese) enjoying a snack during the 2007 Christmas Treats Walk at the Toronto Zoo.

We don’t need to make it our mission to bring stores into the black by charging purchases till we approach our credit-card limit and then hitting those Boxing Day sales. We don’t need to shop or run errands or attend holiday parties till we drop. But if we decide to enjoy the social events, baking, decorating and gift giving, we need to keep our holiday preparations and expectations manageable and reasonable so that we focus on the true reason for the season: celebrating our Saviour’s birth.

(*Scripture quote taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

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Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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