Throughout the year, I keep my eye open for good Christmas gift ideas for my family and friends. I’ll glance through flyers, look at sales, and stop in at exceptional events like “going out of business” sales with the idea in mind that I’ll find an amazing gift for someone at a stellar price – and I usually do find one or two.
As the end of the year approaches, this ramps up. My wife and I make long lists of all of our Christmas obligations and we dig deep into the process of buying presents for everyone. We spend hours upon hours thinking about the perfect gift for everyone in our family. We usually make a bunch of homemade gifts – homemade beer, homemade cookies, and so on. During this period, we usually do find a few great gifts for people, and we happily wrap these up and stow them away under our tree.
As the final week or so approaches, we’re usually getting very nervous about the remaining holes on our list – and we start to panic a bit. We wind up searching madly for gifts for those last few people, rushing around with a ton of pre-holiday nervousness.
A few days before Christmas, we look under the tree – usually as we’re packing up for a long winter trek to visit family – and we’re aghast at the sheer quantity of gifts. “Did we really buy all this stuff?” we’ll ask each other. And, sure enough, we did.
For those last few days, we usually feel some guilt. We think about all of the money we’ve spent on gifts, even if we did find some spectacular bargains along the way. Usually, when we actually do make a tally, it’s not as bad as it seems, adding some relief to our misery.
As Christmas approaches, though, our feelings about the gifts begin to change. We settle in with our family, warm and comfortable and together. We watch old home movies together and play games together. We relax and nap and tell each other stories about the year that’s past.
And on Christmas morning, we all get up together and open those gifts that we’ve been stowing away each year. All of the people we love, together, in one room, opening the gifts we’ve thought so carefully about and purchased for each other.
I get to watch my niece try to look serious as she opens her gifts, but her simple joy at receiving something she’s wanted for a long time still comes through on her stern face.
I get to watch my sister-in-law sit there with the dazed smile she gets every year on Christmas morning.
I get to watch my mother’s eyes glow with happiness as she watches her grandchildren dive into a pile of presents.
And I realize that it really doesn’t matter what gifts are actually wrapped up under the tree. I’ve already received the perfect Christmas gift – those moments with my family, creating memories of togetherness and happiness that will stick in my mind for the rest of my life.