An acquaintance made a comment the other day that brought an "aha moment." To paraphrase, he said that when our children become adults there are less gifts to purchase.
It made me remember when the girls were young the shopping started the Saturday following Thanksgiving. Even then I eschewed Black Friday. My excuse was my job. I no longer have use of that reason. Now it is just an aversion to crowds.
But I digress. As the daughters got older, the gifts seemed to get larger. There were many Christmas eves of "some assembly required." That led to a late night followed by children up at the crack of dawn. The memory seems romantic now, less so back then.
My husband, Doug, and I gifted the girls and their husbands well after their marriages. Wrapped presents spilled out from under the tree.
Several years ago, our daughters started their own tradition. The families exchanged names and lists on Thanksgiving Day. It made sense. They reasoned that they all bought what they wanted or needed throughout the year so a Christmas gift was a token. They were wise to set a dollar amount to be spent.
Soon after, Doug and I were included in the name exchange. That made buying easier. There were no more agonizing decisions on what to buy each recipient. Between us there were only two adults gifts and those for grandchildren. Choosing for the grandchildren was much more fun.
I will admit that it looked a little skimpy under the tree. Still everyone seemed happy, and we continued to celebrate the season.
Then, a couple of years ago, the traditional gift exchange was altered again. No more presents for the adults, only for the children. It took some time for me to adjust to that idea.
Not only did shopping become less stressful, there was even more room under the tree. I suppose our young cat missed tearing bows from the wrapped boxes and batting them around the house. He, too, learned to adjust. After all, he still had a tree to climb into, knocking candy canes to the floor.
With more room there was finally space for the large Nativity display I have owned for years. I found a certain comfort and serenity in carefully unwrapping each piece and putting them in place.
While doing so, I continued my personal tradition of years standing. My Christmas does not start until I have listened to Handel's "Messiah." The music gives me peace. Stress disappears. It reminds me that despite all the hoopla and trappings, there is a deeper meaning to Christmas.
Carolee Ruhnke is a freelance columnist for the Marshfield News-Herald.