What Christmas Means to Me

By Patrick Tedder

When I sat down to ponder what Christmas means to me, one word immediately came to mind.

Presents!

Just kidding (now), but seriously, when I was a kid, that was definitely the operative word. Being an only child, I like to joke that I always got the most gifts at Christmas. Once, my parents made the mistake of letting me open a gift on Christmas Eve. Being dead set on a particular Ninja Turtle toy, I couldn’t hide my disappointment when I didn’t unwrap it out on the first try. Seeing my crestfallen face, my parents let me open another gift, and then another! Still no Ninja Turtle toy.

I didn’t articulate what I was looking for, so my parents leapt to their own conclusions and laid out their plan of action. They immediately bundled me up, and we headed to Toys R Us. At the time, I didn’t realize what was going on, but my mom was scrambling to save Christmas by procuring a rare Nintendo Entertainment System. My mom always came through, and so the next day, I was surprised to find myself playing Duck Hunt and Mario around piles of wrapping paper. If only they had realized I was looking for a much cheaper toy.

There’s also the time when I lost sight of Christmas somehow. As a kid, you have your sights locked on December 25 from Halloween on, but that year, Christmas pulled a fast one on me, slipped out of view, and then jumped out when I was least expecting it. Maybe school got out late, or maybe there was just a lot going on that year, but it wasn’t until Christmas Eve that I realized. My parents and I were eating shrimp fried rice at our local Chinese restaurant watching it flurry outside, and the revelation was nothing short of magical.

When I was a kid, it was a marathon until Christmas. As an adult, the holiday races by. The spirit is with me, but it’s a lot harder to hold onto and relish the moment. That’s why, this year, my wife and I tried to start doing Christmas-y activities as soon as Thanksgiving was over. We went to holiday parties, watched movies in which Santa Claus featured prominently, and did whatever we could to feel like kids again.

We had a great time, but it’s not the same. It all moves so differently now. I can’t believe that Christmas morning has already come and gone, that we’ve had our traditional morning cinnamon rolls, that we’ve opened our presents and eaten our ham. I can’t believe that in just a few short hours, the official holiday will have passed and we’ll be hurtling toward the next.

As an adult, it’s hard to think of one word that encompasses Christmas. Presents are still great. Like I said, don’t hesitate to get me a thoughtful one. But unlike when I was a kid, it won’t make or break my day. Shockingly, you grow up and realize there are more important things than, well, things. Understanding that is really a gift in and of itself. That’s why I urge everyone to try to be merry each and every day of the year, and more than that, to be kind.

I’ve realized that kindness is what Christmas means to me as an adult, and what I want to carry in my heart year round. Coming together regardless of the holiday (or regular day) and finding something to appreciate in it. We can wish our fellow man well and go out of our way to make little things happen that really do end up making a difference in someone’s life no matter what time of year it is.

There’s a fantastic Duck Tails cartoon where the kids wish it could be Christmas every day until they’re in a Groundhog’s day situation that’s hell. Some things should really be timely and pass, but kindness, love, and respect are not among them. For me, Christmas means understanding that there is so much that is bigger than myself and appreciating the wonder in my life. The ability to be appreciative is a gift in itself, and sometimes it’s a gift we forget we have.

Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays. May you be able to make some of the festive spirit of the day carry on at least a little bit longer this year and next.