suburban symmetry

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 “O Suburbs of Despair
where nothing but the weather ever changes!”

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a very disappointing christmas

“I felt overstuffed and dull and disappointed, the way I always do the day after Christmas, as if whatever it was the pine boughs and the candles and the silver and gilt-ribboned presents and the birch-log fires and the Christmas turkey and the carols at the piano promised never came to pass.”

There is a difference between the commercialized Christmas and the one we should be celebrating. When we were young, we were taught that Christmas was a time to receive, despite our parents efforts to tell us otherwise. We might have experienced some sort of brief satisfaction from our magical Christmas mornings, but it inevitably resulted in disappointment. Parents believe they are doing what’s best for their children and making them happy…but I assure you that material happiness is the most depressing kind.

My husband and I often think about how we are going to handle future Christmas’ when we have children of our own. I often experience the longing to give my children that magical experience of Christmas morning—but I will have to fight everything that I’ve been taught to give them what I truly want to give them—which is little to nothing (in the physical sense). I want them to find beauty and happiness in moments and in people. I want them to find happiness in experiences. All of which is not easy to do in the society we live in, where happiness comes from things.

I am still struggling with this idea of material and non-material happiness myself. I’ve come to expect that Christmas is about me and I wish I had been taught differently—it’s hard to unlearn material dependency. I don’t blame my parents or any other parents for that matter—I admit how difficult of a lie we are fed and how difficult it can be to break away from it.

Despite the difficulty, I would like to urge new or soon to be parents to fight against the convincing lie of material happiness and to refrain from introducing it to your children as well, even if it feels like you are robbing them of their joy. The truth is, the day after Christmas is likely the saddest day of the year for most children. It seems this is because material happiness is like a drug: it gives you a short-lived high that wears off and makes it difficult to truly appreciate reality without that high. We begin to learn that happiness only exists in the moments of receiving and doesn’t go further beyond that. Only until we go back to our normal lives and begin to expect happiness in little things do we feel more satisfied and feel a truer sense of contentment.

(An article from The Atlantic called “Buy Experiences, Not Things” talks more about why material happiness doesn’t quite measure up to experiential happiness.)

I don’t need to convince you of this truth because most of you already know that materialism isn’t healthy, but that recognition doesn’t mean we stop our materialistic tendencies. Just because I know materialism won’t make me happy doesn’t mean I won’t succumb to the lie in order to make the purchase. The same is true with parents—just because they know it isn’t the truest form of happiness doesn’t mean that they will stop showering their children with gifts on Christmas for the sake of our child’s happiness. We are wrong on two accounts: Christmas is about far more than a child’s happiness, but even more so, if we are desiring to make them happy, we should do so without using gifts.

Christmas is about Jesus and the indescribable joy of His coming, bringing peace and hope that reach far deeper than anything we experience in our shallow, materialistic world. With that in mind, there is no disappointing a child on Christmas.

“Joy to the world, the Lord has come!