Christmas! It’s the most wonderful time of the year! But let’s be honest it can also be extremely stressful and ridiculously expensive.
Two days ago I landed back in England (please, be colder. And wetter. And darker. And… sarcasm) with a suitcase full of gifts which my nieces and nephews definitely don’t need but I’m hoping want enough to love me more as a result of receiving them.
Am I buying their love. Sure. I guess so.
Do I give a shit? Hell no. LOVE ME!
Let’s cut the crap here, we all live in a capitalist, materialistic world where we’re told things amount to happiness (except they don’t).
And I am no exception. I’d love to sit outside of my ego and tell you that I am so enlightened that I have no need for material possessions and find my worthiness from within at all times but I’d be a massive whopping liar. I’m messy and scrappy and unashamedly human, just like you.
So truth be told, I also believe the late night infomercial (my guilty obsession) when it subliminally convinces me that the Wonder Mop 2000 will make me a domestic Goddess and therefore, more appealing to the opposite sex because let’s get real, we all want to be loved.
I too fall into the trap of believing that I’ll automatically be part of the cool kid gang (a residual need left over from the popularity contest that was my high school experience) if I just sacrifice paying my electricity bill to clothe myself in Beyoncé’s latest range of horrendously overpriced sportswear.
I am also manipulated into spending more than I need to at Christmas on gifts for those I love because when it comes down to it, I assume that the more shit there is to unwrap, the more love I communicate and therefore receive.
Thankfully, in amongst all of this materialistic noise, my sisters and I were once taught a lesson which cut through this bullshit and remains one of my most precious gifts.
Whenever the frenzy of buying and wrapping and giving gets too much, I come back to this Christmas memory and hope that in sharing it with you dear reader, you too will be reminded that no one in your immediate family or extended friendship group needs yet another scented candle from the homeware department of Target to be assured of your love for them. Shall we?
The Best Gift EVER!
Christmas was a big deal in my childhood home and Father Christmas came religiously, way past his recommended rate of attendance.
My favourite visit was his last, because he bought with him a teaching that will be with me forever and one I endeavour to hand down to my nieces and nephews.
I was 20 years old and my eldest sister was to be married the following year. My parents (in cahoots with Father Christmas) decided that this was a sign that Santa’s annual visits to us were at an end.
So in the December of 2001, my sisters and I gathered at my parents’ house for one final stocking.
Christmas morning arrived, and my Mother’s voice rang throughout the house.
“Has he been? Has he been?”
Three (pretty hung over) sisters traipsed down stairs to find three seemingly empty stockings hanging in front of the fire, in fact, the only full ones belonged to my (now) brother-in-laws!
All Christmas cheer flew out the window, and we raced to my parents to demand an explanation.
Upon closer inspection, there was of course a gift inside.
A card from an aid charity telling us we had… Goats! One for each of us, named with our respective nicknames, Pudding, Flops and Bod.
These goats had been bequeathed to families in developing countries so they could provide milk for them in times of hardship.
And then there was the poem.
My family love a good poem and every year Father Christmas would leave us one. We loved them and they became as exciting as the gifts themselves.
In his last ever poem, Father Christmas marvelled at how we’d grown and how he’d miss visiting us. And then in perfect iambic pentameter he explained that this year he’d given us gifts in the true spirit of Christmas. Gifts that were far more precious than our standard stocking fillers, gifts that would enrich the lives of others, gifts that reflected the women we had become.
That year, I learnt that to give to those in need is a gift in itself.
We don’t need ‘stuff’ to be shown love.
Love is expressed through the contribution to the lives of others.
It’s a formidable force, invisible and unmeasurable yet so powerful in its ability to create a joy far greater than any material possession can provide.
This year I’ll be passing on this Christmas gift from my parents (I mean Santa!) and on Christmas morning when my nieces and nephews open one gift each from me instead of seven, I’ll let them know it’s because I gave a donation to charity so that other children somewhere else in this world can be fed on Christmas day.
I’ll make sure they know that part of their Christmas gift is helping another child feel loved.
And love is the most precious gift of all.
So this year, wherever you are in the world, show some love.
Reach out to those in need, donate to those less fortunate than you, show your fellow men and women that you care and that they matter.
Demonstrate to the next generation that love isn’t found inside a Harry Potter Lego Hogwarts Train Set, but inside your heart.
Show them that plastic toys won’t make their lives complete, but contribution will.
The funny thing about love is, the more you give, the more you get back and I think the world could do with a bit more of it.
He’s a clever chap that Santa.
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