The Santa-style hat with “Bah humbug!” embroidered on the white caught my eye as my 9- and 10-year-old daughters wrapped up shopping for their mom’s Christmas gifts.
I joked we should buy that cap for me, since obviously I didn’t like Christmas. I’m a bit tight-fisted with my earnings, and the gift-giving season generally rubs me the wrong way, a la Scrooge.
My 9-year-old stopped me to lecture me very seriously.
“That’s not true, Dad,” she started, turning to look into my eyes. “You love Christmas — the real Christmas.
“You love your family. You love getting together with everyone and having dinner together. You love listening to and telling the old stories from when you were all kids.”
It’s true, our family gatherings can be chaotic. That old house never felt big enough for the seven Trinko kids, and now we all bring back our spouses and our children. But they’re meaningful visits, seeing all my siblings as matriarchs and patriarchs of their own families now.
Before I could catch my breath, my 10-year-old jumped in on me.
“And you love what Christmas really is, the birth of Jesus,” she said. “You get mad when Christmas is about the presents instead of about the Son of God. You don’t like it when people forget whose birthday we’re celebrating.”
Also true. I welcome a packed house at church, thrilled to see the religious aspect still touches people enough to attend services, if only on Christmas and Easter.
I stood stunned for a moment. Here they were, a pair of pre-teens at the height of their Christmas joy. Still, they get it. On a card the younger girl drew recently, she deliberately wrote the holiday as two separate words, Christ Mass.
At their age, all I really cared about were the presents. I’m not sure I paid that much attention to what my parents loved most about the holiday, such as driving around looking at Christmas lights or how their faces lit up when their grown children joined us younger ones at midnight Mass.
Time and experiences matched my preferences with my parents’. The things inside wrapping paper are just stuff. Those moments spent together, recalling the remarkable event that changed everything? Those are the real gifts.
I’m sure sometime this week someone will ask me if Santa Claus got me everything I wanted for Christmas. As it turns out, I got to open that greatest present earlier. I have children who not only know my frustration with an over-commercialized holiday but understand my perspective. In fact, they seem to love it about their old man.
I can’t think of a better reason to share this sentiment: To you and yours, have a very merry Christmas.