In Defense of a Commercial Christmas

Our Christmas Tree 2013
Our Christmas Tree 2013

We Collearys are not a religious people.

Henry’s a recovering Catholic.

I was raised Mormon and love them dearly, but simply could not commit to “One True Church” or give up wine.

(The Mormon age for baptism is 8, but even then I knew I would one day #lovethegrape — that should trend, no?)

Clare is probably the most connected to God of all of us, as she prays frequently.

But Bridget is a self-professed atheist (at age 9).

She believes in Science and the Greek Gods.

She being Athena, Henry Zeus, Clare Poseidon and I’m stuck with Hera, who was jealous of all of the beautiful Goddesses and frequently arranged to have them killed.

We’re a motley crew. So Christmas tends to be about movies, parties and, most importantly, loot.

The girls give us their Christmas wish lists in July, which they add to and amend all the way up to Christmas 24th.
  • Sometimes they photo-copy and collate their lists.
  • Sometimes they hand them out as fliers on the street like hucksters in front of an airport strip club.
  • Sometimes they go door-to-door with their lists like Jehovah’s Witnesses and are turned away by garden hoses and German Shepherds named Fritz.
I’m ambivalent every year about our commercial Christmas.

I’m worried we’re not teaching our children Compassion, Love, Humility and How to Load the Dishwasher, but are most likely raising Soulless Loot Trolls.

So, I went about my Christmas shopping this year with a sense of resentment.

Who came up with this gluttonous, commercial season?

  • Was Walmart around during Jesus’s time?
  • Did Costco co-opt the son of God?
  • Should Henry and I even celebrate Christmas considering our agnosticism?

Then something interesting happened this year.

Both of my daughters approached me separately, the money from their piggy banks in the palms of their hands.

They wanted to buy Christmas gifts for their daddy and me and their friends.

I told them that would cost a lot of their money. Maybe even all the money they had, which they usually guard like Gimli in The Lord Of The Rings from potential thieves. (Like mothers who don’t have cash on hand to pay the pizza man).

I tried to talk them out of spending all their money, offering to pay for half of each gift. They’d have none of that. They wanted the gifts to be from them, not me.

So we shopped for their loved ones, and Henry took them shopping for me.

They bought thoughtful, well-considered gifts, ferried them off to my bedroom to wrap themselves and place under the tree with excited anticipation.

On Christmas morning, they rushed the tree like forward tackles. I waited for the feeding frenzy to begin.

That’s when they returned with their gifts for Henry and me. They wanted us to open ours first.

Bridget gave me a dainty, gold Angel pin that I can wear close to my heart.

Clare gave me a messenger bag that would be good for carrying my computer when I want to work away from home.

They were so proud of their gifts, and I was so proud of my growing-up girls.

The day after Christmas, a package arrived. It had come all the way from China, which is why it was late.

UnknownFor the last three years Bridget has asked for a Soda Hat for Christmas. 

It comes equipped with a long straw you can put in the soda cans that will reach down to your mouth so you can drink without using your hands.

Yes. I know. Awesome.

I ignored this gift request each year, because I didn’t want to give my kid something from which she could mainline sugar, which could potentially evolve into a trip to Afghanistan to buy the best poppies.

But this year I cracked, and ordered the foul thing.

Yet when I pulled it from the bag, it was smashed into several pieces, destroyed. I was about to furtively chuck it when Bridget appeared.

“What’s that, Mommy?”

“Oh Honey, I’m sorry, it’s the Soda Hat I bought you, but it’s broken.”

Bridget’s eyes welled.

“I’m sorry, Sweetie. I can order a new one.”

“No, Mommy, I’m not sad. I’m just so glad you thought of me!”

Then she threw her arms around me and told me she loved me.

I told her I loved her too, and we held each other for a very long time. I also might have inhaled the still-lingering baby scent from the top of her head.

Maybe someday our Colleary Christmas will be more about Christ than the things we’re giving and getting, but this Christmas I’ll settle for the Soda Hat. And a pair of red shoes. (Thank you, Henry!)

My mid-life crisis shoes.
My mid-life crisis shoes.
Clare with her loot.
Clare with her loot.
Bridget rollicking in her loot.
Bridget shamelessly in love with her presents.

I’d love to hear about the best thing you gave or received this Christmas?

8 thoughts on “In Defense of a Commercial Christmas”

  1. So happy to read that your daughters are so thoughtful! Sounds like they value the selflessness and generosity that is supposed to happen this time of year. Bridget appreciating a broken soda helmet because of the thought is a sign of wisdom far beyond her years!

    Best presents: (these are material but there was also a lot of sappy family stuff) I practically hit my husband over the head with a brick hinting that I wanted diamond earrings and he came through for me! I indulged his obsession of vintage sweaters with some great eBay finds. I gave my dad a Frank Zappa shirt which he was absolutely tickled with! Dad gave me hand-crocheted place mats and napkin rings that my late grandmother made so that was super special…

    1. Serena your comment makes me so happy! A husband who delivers on diamond earrings is a catch. What is it about those bright baubles that just say, “I appreciate you!” And your dad’s gift kills me. The fact that he saved them and passed them on is so loving, both of his mother and of you. Generational love is where it’s at. I always feel so happy when I’ve found the “right” gift for someone (which is not easy to do), it probably makes me happier than it makes the recipient. xo

  2. That’s such an adorable and thoughtful story. Your daughters sound so sweet.

    The best gift of the year was not given or received by me but from my parents to my sister. My littlest sister does not mess around with her last or “big” gift. This year she opened a bag of bird seed last. We often wrap something that symbolizes something else. However, when she unwrapped this she didn’t understand what it meant and got very upset. She started crying because she was so sad that her biggest gift was bird seed. And this was after watching me open a pot holder making kit as my “biggest” gift. But, when my dad and I brought down the bird that had been staying in the FROG, she was so excited and happy that happy tears started to leak out of her eyes. She had gone from sad crying to happy crying in an instant. I don’t think I’ve had that range of emotions in a week, let alone a second. It was fun watching her experience so many things at a time.

    1. Wait, where was the bird staying? What is the FROG? Did the frog eat the bird, then barf it back up? I’m confused. But happy your sister was surprised and happy.

  3. The best thing I got was time spent with my family, my daughter’s best friend and my brothers family in Hawai. Three of the kids have recently moved away to go to college so our time together has become extra rare and especially precious.

    1. Sounds like it was a fabulous Christmas Jill. And isn’t it great that your children are so close to you. You’ve obviously done it right. xoS

  4. My thoughts on Christmas, exactly! Even though my girls are 6 and 4, the past Christmas had set the bar for this Christmas – all because it is a tradition for my husband’s family to give a gazillion presents for the only grandchild in their family before we joined them. What I’d really like is one nice (perfect, age-appropriate) Christmas gift for them every year, a Christmas bucket list we do as a family, the sly elf on the shelf hunt and catching him in notorious acts, a incredibly fun and gift-less day before Christmas extended family and friends party, and Christmas day all day in pajamas and bed, eating leftovers, watching movies and just being together. Oh how I wish… Happy new year!

    1. Oh Aregelyn — Christmas comes with so many expectations from so many quarters that I’m tempted to ditch the whole thing and get the kids on a plane to Israel. Having said that my children told me this Christmas was their best so far. I’m sure they enjoyed being with family, but it was the new Ping Pong table that really won them over.

Comments are closed.

Self-Help Book About Healing Love Addiction

Don't Miss Shannon's Tastefully Infrequent Newsletter


* indicates required