I'm finally liking Christmas again. I don't think I ever hated it, but I started off loving it, possibly too much, and it's been a bit of a roller coaster since then.
When I was a kid, Christmas was one more magical escape. It was another chance to believe in wishes and elves and flying. I remember feeling my excitement grow as the world became increasingly red, green, and white. People were kinder to each other, and there was always this sense of anticipation. I loved every ceremony. Trimming the tree, wrapping the gifts, Christmas Eve candle light service, waking up way too early at Mom's and seeing what Santa left, breakfast at Grandma's with the fancy plates and silverware, then off to Dad's for more gifts and food.
But as with nearly everything I loved as a child, there was a fall. A disenchantment. An earth-rattling disappointment. Like the moment you realize that all the people you know and look up to, your parents, your minister, your grandparents, your teachers, are completely fallible and flawed. I don't remember what age I was, but I do remember the first Christmas that I no longer loved it. I don't know what hurt more, my loss of "Christmas Spirit", or my knowledge of my loss. Christmas came and went that year and I was emotionally unaffected. I felt robbed. I mourned the loss of an era in my life when I could just enjoy and not question.
When I was a senior in High School I became deeply spiritual. I read the Bible daily and hung out with Christians who weren't afraid to answer my tough questions. More importantly, I wasn't afraid to ask these people tough questions. That was an enormous change from my childhood experience up to that point. Questions were generally not accepted with a welcoming conversation. I became very Christ-centered, and my view of the Christmas season had a new season of it's own in my life. One of deep spiritual connection and holy gratitude. But as I have learned with everything that's shiny and new, the shine eventually fades and you're left with realness again. For better or worse.
Then I became an adult. Christmas became buying shit. Who wants what and hasn't been bought it yet. And with a family my size, that's an expensive and stressful chore. Add a girlfriend into the mix, and you're a broke young professional running around on Christmas Eve with all the other dads at the mall buying useless crap and resenting everyone's importance they've placed on this ritual.
Why why why couldn't Christmas be what it was when I was a kid? You were chauffeured around, the world looked like Disney World, and everyone made such an effort to speak nicely to you and each other. And perhaps most importantly, you weren't socially obligated to give useless crap to every one. When I was growing up, my family could probably have been described as economically lower-class across the board, but by the time I was an adult, everyone was doing just fine financially. We didn't need to buy each other sweaters because we had 7 sweaters in the closet. I wondered how to make it all worth it again. Then I came up with an idea for our family to take all the money that we would spend on each other, and give it to a family that was actually in need. The kids would still get their gifts, but the adults would adopt a family.
Finally! A purpose for the gifts again. We bought for a family what was probably a pretty wonderful Christmas one year, and I felt really great about it. Of course, you can't please everyone. My Grandma, one of the sweetest little ladies you could meet, wasn't happy. She wanted at Christmas to buy things for her family. I learned that year that getting gifts from Grandma was as much a gift to her as it was to me. She loves blessing her family and missed that immensely the year we adopted a family. Right or wrong, we didn't want to break Grandma's heart, so we went back to buying each other gifts.
So where am I headed with this? I think the best moments I've had at Christmas were the times when I was closest to God, the few times when I gave a family member the perfect gift that wasn't just another box on the pile, and when I was helping someone or a cause that truly needed it. Well, those first and second instances, I can't help you with. But the last one, giving to where it is truly needed, I would implore you to do.
The areas to which we are all drawn to give are different, and that's ok. You can't save the world alone, but you can make it better in the ways and areas that you are able to. Personally, I am most drawn to the the needs of kids and the arts. That's why being attached to an organization like An Old Fashioned Canton Christmas is really important to me, and easy for me to pour work into. I believe in the 2 organizations that will benefit from our production. The Stark County Hunger Task Force and The Canton Palace Theatre are time-tested organizations that do great work and are in great need.
Shameless plug, or sincere appeal? I guess all that I care is that you read it and will consider it. I also think you won't be disappointed with this production. It's really packed with entertainment for all ages. If you're interested in the show, which is November 14th at 7:30pm at the Palace Theatre, go to www.cantonchristmas.org for more information, or www.cantonpalacetheatre.org for tickets.
May this season be your favorite yet.