An Uncharted Christmas

I was never big on the holiday season.

I didn’t like the Santa mythology, didn’t like the way gift-giving was treated as an obligation, and really didn’t like the push to buy more more more!.. year after year. Having children changes everything, though, and this morning, as our boys dug excitedly into their stockings, I experienced Christmas through their eyes.

Henrik is three and a half, so this is far from his first holiday season, but this was the first year he took notice of Santa. Whether it was conversations with his friends in preschool, or more awareness of the themes running through every Disney Junior cartoon this time of year, he was anticipating Christmas morning just enough to make it fun.

And his Poppop made sure it was a magical morning, decorating the tree after bedtime and arranging the playroom with stockings and a few big presents the boys could share. (Most toys are shared at this stage, since our one-year-old wants to do everything his older brother is doing.)

The stockings were a big hit, and I wondered if the boys were ever going to unwrap the bigger presents! Poppop put an orange in the bottom of each stocking (an old family tradition from when I was little) and Henrik thought that was hilarious.

Before the presents we enjoyed a peaceful family morning, our first hours spent cuddled on the sofa and eating a big breakfast in the dining room. Although Henrik was excited about Christmas, he didn’t wake up and run around looking for gifts from Santa. He spent his morning like any other, talking and playing and just enjoying his family. It warms my heart, though I fear he may grow out of that eventually.

There were a few moments of toy overload, despite the conservative amount of gifts compared to my own childhood memories. In those moments, I’m reminded how little we actually need to be happy, how our boys could have spent all day just playing with the few cars and small toys from their stockings.

But for parents and grandparents, the spectacle of a big box wrapped in bright paper is what Christmas morning is all about. The act of giving gifts and the enjoyment of unwrapping them has more to do with the giver than the one whose name is on the package. I think I got more joy watching Henrik play with his new wooden train set than he got from unwrapping and opening the box.

The rest of the day was hectic: cooking food to share with family, Henrik busy in his play kitchen at the same time (“I want to cook the same thing Poppop is cooking!”), packing the car and heading to my grandmother’s house for an early dinner, then the chaos of a large family meal with two young boys who just want to get up and play.

On the ride home, Jamie remarked how different this year was than the past 10 years we spent together. Back then, it was just another holiday, another day off work. There were still family dinners and presents, but it didn’t mean anything… at least not compared to what it means now thanks to Henrik and Kasper.

There’s still plenty of things I don’t like about the holidays, but as long as I can share them with these two little guys and watch their sense of wonder and excitement take over, perhaps I’ll start to look forward to Christmas from now on.

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