I am a morning person, and always have been. As a young man, that desire to wake up early only increased on Christmas Day. While many of my peers seemed content to sleep in, I was already there, in front of the Christmas tree, at 4 or 5 in the morning.
I enjoyed the solitude of watching the randomly blinking lights. As I watched the pretty lights, I would try to guess which one would blink next. I loved the pattern of multi-colored shadows playing on the wall as the lights blinked, too.
But I had to wait until everyone else was up before I could open my presents. To help ease our anticipation, my parents hung stockings on the mantle of our fireplace. I knew I could take that down early and enjoy what was inside before anyone else woke.
So I’d sit for awhile, admiring all of the gifts under the tree. I loved how they seemed randomly arranged. Sometimes there was an unwrapped gift, like a bicycle. I loved that green bicycle I got one Christmas. I just sat there in silence, watching the lights, seeing how everything twinkled and sparkled. And when I was done, I took my stocking downstairs with me to my bedroom.
I don’t recall ever being disappointed on Christmas Day. I always got what I asked for. Books, like the series of books by John D. Fitzgerald, starting with “The Great Brain”. As I got into adolescence, I got a stereo, and the album I loved the most, Abbey Road, by The Beatles. I played that album around Christmas time for many years to come. And I got toys, too. But I remember the books and the music the most.
As I grew into adulthood, I became much less concerned about Christmas gifts, and more concerned about spending Christmas with a girlfriend. I was often lonely for Christmas, living alone. I spent many Christmas days, and later, as my siblings got married and had kids, Christmas Eves, with my family, but I didn’t start a family of my own until much later in life.
But I can fairly say that for most of my adult life, I have been more concerned about being with others for Christmas than the gifts I received. I spent many years working on myself. Understanding my own behavior became paramount. Finding fellowship became important. Eventually, I came around to getting married and having kids.
I have largely solved the problems I used to see as a young adult, in Christmas. I have a family now, and with kids, I can see in them what I used to see in me. But that desire to see gifts for me under the tree is largely absent. My wife spends the money and buys the gifts for the kids. I just facilitate since I earn the money for our family. I don’t worry about what gifts I will receive, and haven’t for many years now.
As I survey my surroundings, every year, for every Christmas, I tend to see the same thing. The gifts that I have received, didn’t come on Christmas day. They had been coming all year long. They were often intangible gifts, like time off, solitude, time with people I love, a hug, a kiss, peaceful surroundings, the sound of my kids playing together, and the way they came to me to play.
I don’t worry about getting anything for Christmas because I already have much of what I want. I don’t count what I have because counting them only makes them the lesser. I just enjoy what I have right now. I accept what I have without reservation. And I make a decision to be happy with it. That is Christmas to me.