AI: Christmas Growing Pains

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas. Mine was great, quiet with just my sister, bro-in-law and mom representing my family (we’re a small family), but I always like to think about the Christmases of my youth, where I was sick with excitement and lay awake all night in anticipation of the joys the morning would bring. My adult Christmases are a child-free affair, and while we all do a good job of acting like kids ourselves, I can’t help but feel that some level of manic excitement, perhaps the real meaning of Christmas, is missing.

When I was a kid, we were poor as dirt, but that made the scant few presents my sister and I received even more valuable. The other brilliant part of Christmas was playing games with my family, and still is (this year we played Cranium WOW).  I know I’m an old cynic, but I see friends’ kids today receiving thirty or forty gifts each and I feel a little sad for them, even though the ‘lesson’ of value that one gains through poverty isn’t something I should wish on anyone. But I do feel that the vast number of toys bestowed on these kids is a tad crass and possibly not that healthy. What do I know, I’m not a parent. Perhaps I’d spoil my kid if I was, or maybe I’d limit their gifts to a handful of meaningful things like I hope I would.

How does your adult Christmas compare to your childhood experience?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear daily at 3pm ET.

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  1. I’ll do a bit of special meals and days off work because my wife really likes this holiday. If it weren’t for her, though, I’d be happy to let Christmas go. Other events have taken on more significance. My wife’s birthday is a biggie along with our anniversary. We celebrate the hell out of those. I also like the beginning of spring song bird migration to a degree that is hard to explain. The first day I go out to watch and photograph is usually the highlight of my year.

  2. We’ve tried and failed ever since the first Little Anthropologist was born six years ago to get the grandparents to limit themselves to one or two educational/meaningful gifts. The sheer volume of wrapping paper and cheap plastic junk we end up recycling or giving away makes me want to cry. The extreme excess is in complete opposition to the values we are trying to instill in our children.

    Our family’s gift to them is a certificate for charitable giving–usually to Oxfam or Heifer and some kid crafts or cookies. We would really like the holiday to be about spending time together as a family rather than about status displays. I am at a total and exasperated loss about how to achieve this.

  3. My childhood Christmases and my adult ones are completely different. For one, I don’t really celebrate Christmas anymore. I see my parents who live 200km away a couple of weeks before Christmas and along with my extended family, we have a meal and swap some presents. On Christmas day itself, I head over to the Jewish in-laws for a very sedate and non-Christmasy lunch. There is part of me that misses the pure excitement of Christmas but there is a very large part of me that doesn’t miss the whole pressure of having to do “Christmas”.

  4. My sister this year asked that I not get “toys” for her kids. She said they play with them once and that’s it anyway. So what I got them was the one toy I know from last year they liked’s twin (last year was slinkies for everyone this year yoyo’s!) and then books and activity books.

    My extended family is pretty big (because of snow we were small this year only 21 people) and I’m always happy that the biggest part of the holiday is stuff like going out and playing in the snow or 10,000 games of foozeball so everyone gets to play everyone or cards (cribbage is a great little math game for small kids).

    I just worry that kids look at other kids and think that those who don’t get gifts are worse kids and those who get more are “better” when it is all a function of money really. (I know they did when I was little.) For this reason I hate Santa with a passion of a thousand burning suns.

  5. We didn’t have a big family thing for Christmas. Seems we were much better at Thanksgiving. The bottom line is always the FOOD!

    Friends: I give fewer and fewer gifts b/c if I can’t come up with something better than gift certificates, I quit and offer that person a place at our table.
    Kids: fewer from me each year. I’m now down to one each, a family-wide gift (we love Cranium, too!), and just let the uncles, grammy and their dad add to the mix.

  6. I thought I was spoiled because I got a lot of toys as a kid. But we never had that much money, and the toys were pretty cheap. I also played with a lot of hand-me-down toys. It was nothing compared to how my spoiled my niece and nephew are. It just creates a sense of entitlement where even the slightest delay of gratification is an emotional crisis. It drives me nuts. No wonder my nephew is overweight–he has every gaming system known to man, and never gets off the couch.

  7. I am part of a small family (two cousins on one side, six on the other and one sister). For three years I was the only grandchild/niece on both sides of the family. Christmas was insane with gifts from relatives, my parents and “Santa”. I think my parents mainly gave us one big gift each or to share (one year it was the Barbie camper van for us to share) and that was fine by me.
    As an adult we exchange stocking stuffers on that side of the family and larger gifts on hubby’s side. This year we asked for, and gave, charitable donations to charities that work in Ethiopia, which we researched, and we chose those without a religious message or angle. We donated to a local toy charity. We raised over $500 for charity and that was the best part of Christmas for me. Well, that and my Snuggie.
    Our son is two this year, so his few toys and books were more than enough, and as he gets older we’ll be teaching him about helping others as well as appreciating what he has/gets as gifts.

  8. Mine is nice and stress-free nowadays. I do absolutely nothing: no gifts received or given, no cards sent, no decorations, no parties.

    Christmas was pretty horrible for me as a kid. Being forced to sit on Santa’s lap and pose for pictures multiple times per season was pretty traumatic (I had severe stranger fear when young), and then being severely scolded for not focusing on Jesus when all I wanted was to get some nice swag was difficult to understand. I hated it all around.

    So now I’m like, whatever. I’m a grown-up, I don’t have to observe if I don’t wanna. I love it that way. I don’t miss a thing about the way it used to be.

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