SOMETIMES it’s easy to get caught up in the little details of Christmas. The things you think matter the most: what to eat, when to eat, what to gift, who to gift. But really, the most important details are who to eat with, and who to gift.
As a parent I fussed throughout the years over what the kids would receive, how best to surprise them, and making sure they didn’t receive all the presents at once so they wouldn’t get overwhelmed.
Of course as they got older, the nature of the gifts changed as well as the celebrations. They became less concerned about Santa or whether he was real, they became less interested in toys and were content to receive one special gift, and in recent years, they were happy with just their favorite food and a fuss-free Christmas without being shuttled around to reunions with people they didn’t know or remember from childhood.
And this began our series of simple Christmases, sometimes choosing to be in Manila, sometimes in Baguio, one year in a hotel room, in an old home, and yet another year declaring that December 27 would be our Christmas Day as that was the earliest we could be reunited with Older Boy halfway around the world.
This year, Christmas Eve was to be, yet again, different. The day had started off with melancholy about two empty chairs at table and about missing the dog who had passed on December 24th last year. But it was also a year to rejoice as Older Boy was finally back in the same country, our little band of four now complete and with the addition of my mom who now lived under our roof since both my father and sister passed away in a span of twelve months.
Then the day got sideswiped and the Christmas spirit waylaid with a trip to the hospital emergency room. It was frustrating to be sick during the holidays but as we reminded ourselves, that time last year we were cremating our dog, so a series of medical tests still seemed like a step ahead.
Throw in some miscommunication about schedules, bad moods and changes in plans and soon, some family members were not feeling very Christmassy anymore. Luckily, the two kids, now adults in their own right, uttered two simple sentences at just the right time: “I’m happy with whatever there is.” (in response to my question of whether we should push through with Noche Buena) and “Yay! Christmas was saved!” (after a very relaxed and enjoyable time exchanging simple homemade gifts and tokens that others may have found too juvenile for my young adults).
Sometimes all it takes is some funny stupid socks for everyone, or some craft supplies for kids well beyond the preschool years. It harks back to simpler times when gotta didn’t need to be fancy or showy.
Sometimes it feels right to uphold silly little traditions like games played at table with toothpicks and water, a standard trick that their grandfather always did to amuse them, also well beyond their preschool years. Now the proverbial baton had been passed to the kids themselves. In honor of their grandfather who was missing from the Christmas table and is missing from our everydays, they set up the toothpicks and everyone whooped when the trick was successful.
Often, all that really matters is that we don’t get too caught up in the details, or in ourselves, for that matter. Spending the day in the same place and trying to be present to each other’s feelings is the most important present one can give to everyone around them. It’s true for Christmas and it’s true for the everyday.