I don’t remember a single Christmas tree in my childhood. I don’t remember piles of gifts under a tree, Christmas decorations on our front door or stockings hanging from the fireplace (even though we had on). I don’t remember my mom slaving away in the kitchen cooking turkey or lamb or staying up late on Christmas Eve to leave milk and cookies for Father Christmas.
I don’t remember my dad dressing up as Santa Clause or putting up lights on our house. I don’t remember eating cheap chocolate from advent calendars on my count down to Christmas. I don’t remember opening Christmas presents and eating jelly trifle with R5 coins inside.
And that’s because my mom and dad chose not to adopt these traditions with us. The year my brother turned one (the year before I was born) they felt convicted in their own hearts to do away with all the commercial aspects of Christmas. And that was the last tree my brother ever saw.
It must be stated for the record that they have absolutely no problem with Christmas traditions and festivities and have never looked down on people who do go all out. They just felt that for our family, most of it was something we could do without.
You see while we didn’t jump on the commercial bandwagon with all the bells and whistles of Christmas time, I do remember it being the most magical time of year.
I remember gong on holiday over December. I remember my dad buying us gifts for no reason and spoiling us with ice cream any time we asked. I remember my dad splashing in the waves on the beautiful KZN beaches we visited and my mom taking me shopping for new costumes and beach toys at the local cafÃ©.
I remember my dad teaching me to play pool and reading The Chronicles of Narnia to my brother and I. I remember my dad taking me on late afternoon walks with binoculars around my neck so he could teach me about birds.
But what I remember most vividly is my dad teaching us about Jesus. I remember going to church on Christmas day and giving thanks to God and celebrating Jesus’ life. From as young as I can remember, my dad gently guided me to find my own relationship with God, something he continues to do to this day.
People sometimes ask (or assume) that we felt so hard done by and cheated of the experience of Christmas as kids, but the truth is, I never felt cheated of a single thing. I longed for Christmas holidays as much as the next kid in my class. It just meant something different to me.
I can remember returning to school after the holidays, everyone sharing about what Father Christmas had given them. I was the girl who would break it to my class every year My DAD got me a new bike. You guys know Father Christmas isn’t real right? Real ball buster I know.
But through my mom and dads conviction I learnt what the true meaning of Christmas is. It’s about togetherness and gratitude. It’s the time spent together giving thanks for life we have been given through the ONE who makes it all possible.
And as we have grown up and become adults, their sentiment of Christmas has stayed the same. These days, on Christmas day you will find us creating memories over lunch around their HUGE dinning room table with family and friends. Their grandchildren will be playing and running around, giddy with excitement. My pops will be opening only the best wine and telling us all to drink it. My crazy aunt will be heard laughing at something Noah or Maddi just said and my mom will without a doubt be telling everyone how to make the mushroom sauce.
Sometimes there will be foreigners from the Congo at our table who don’t have family to spend the day with. Sometimes there will be Crayfish instead of lamb. Sometimes we will have new friends join our party who didn’t have anywhere else to go. But there will ALWAYS be laughter and joy and gratitude. SO much gratitude for our lives and the time spent together. And we will AWAYS eat too much.
And yes still without a Christmas tree in their lounge or a Santa Clause on their roof.
And while many of us may choose to go all out for the magical experience, I love what my mom and dad taught me. I also love that they are so relaxed about the fact that and the majority of us DO go a bit crazy with the festivities over Christmas time.
I’m starting to look forward to creating memories and adopting some special traditions now that my kids are at an age that they can enjoy them together, but I will always come back to what I’ve been taught, about what Christmas time is really about and I will always remind them about what Jesus did for us.
No matter how we do Christmas going forward, I am eternally grateful for the values they instilled in us growing up and I will always admire them for standing strong in their conviction and faith.
Where do you stand? Do you go CRAZY? Or are you more relaxed? What’s the craziest, most outrageous thing you have done in the spirit of Christmas?