Christmas came. 

There were house guests and late night family card games (What?  11pm doesn’t count as late night!??!) and a never ending buffet of carbs.

And now I sit in my quiet house surrounded by the shrapnel of holiday merriment.  There is a fine layer of glitter on every floor thing.  Though the presents are put away, tiny pieces of wrapping paper stick to chair legs and hide under tables.

Instead of looking around my house and seeing the great holiday decorations, all I see is work to be done.  Every bed needs fresh sheets now that the guests are on their long journeys home.

Mount Washmore awaits in the laundry room.  The play room appears to have been visited by an angry bull.

It was a good Christmas.  And I am exhausted.

I learned some things this Christmas.  By sleeping in my daughter’s room for 2 nights (it’s a long story), I learned that her fish tank filter is too loud.  And that our family room rug needs to be stretched since everyone trips over it, not just me.

More importantly, I learned that gifts aren’t what make a holiday great.  (Don’t worry, no tear-jerker heartwarming stories of Christmas here.  This is more of a I-may-have-sabotaged-my-own-holiday kind of story.)

I really thought that getting people nice gifts would make me feel great.  I focused on giving my partner and children lots of fun packages to open. Some part of me believed that seeing my loved ones’ faces light up when they opened my carefully purchased, beautifully wrapped gifts would make me happy.

But therein lies the problem. 

By dreaming of delighted faces, I was secretly creating an expectation that my family have a specific reaction to my gifts.  And if/when that reaction didn’t happen, I felt crest fallen.  Even angry.

Going overboard with my gift giving left me feeling a little hollow.  I didn’t get that magical sense of holiday fulfillment.  I realize now that my disillusionment is of my own making.

Because giving is about the people, not about the thing.  I know that, of course, I just seem to have forgotten it momentarily.  In my haste to manufacture a “wow” moment on Christmas Day, I forgot that the best “wow’s” are about things we do for each other, not things we give to each other.

This year we gave each other so much stuff, we had to rediscover it all again this morning.  There’s a thrill in seeing all of the shiny, new gifts.  But there’s an emptiness, too.

Despite the gluttony, I’m not sad about this Christmas.  There was lots of laughter and quality time spent together.  The kids stayed up late, tasted special treats, and enjoyed family traditions new and old.  We had a great time with my parents and brother/sister-in-law and we were very sad to see them leave.

But next year?  I’m making some changes.

Next year I will not orchestrate “wow” moments.  I will just delight in them as they unfold.

I will give my family fewer things and more meaningful gifts.

I will be able to recall each gift I gave and received the day after Christmas.

Most importantly, I will remember that my sense of holiday spirit comes not from wrapping paper and impossible-to-open plastic packages, but from giving freely without expectations.

I believe there is magic in this season, regardless of which holiday we celebrate.  But this year, I am reminded that if I want to find that magic I need not look under the tree but instead into the eyes of the ones I love most.

There's magic in these eyes.


And if I can do that?  And teach my children to do that?

Then that, my friends, would be a real Christmas miracle.




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