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The reason for the season

After getting totally sucked into the commercialization of Santa and his Elves, I did something about it.

Christmas shopping sure looks different now compared to when I was a kid.

I remember my mom bringing home that humongous Sears catalog over the summer to get “ideas” about what I was hoping to find under the tree. I sharpened my pencil and sat down on the couch for hours as I circled catalog numbers on every page. From there, she whittled down the wish list and then had to do the unthinkable. My mother drove to the store, waited in line and ordered the gifts in person at the catalog counter. Can you imagine!

A few months later, we would roll up to the Sears service door in the Pontiac and the happy holiday staffers would load up my mom’s trunk. The anticipation of trying to figure out what she picked for me was torture. She hid Christmas presents all over the house until the big reveal Christmas morning.

Then as I got older, she would wrap the gifts and place them under the tree and that was just as taunting. I would inspect each gift and shake them for weeks trying to guess each one.

There was never a shortage of presents. I really don’t know how she did it as a single mom on a teacher’s salary. But it wasn’t all about the toys back then we spent family time together and enjoyed the magic of the season. My favorite thing as a child was getting on the local tour bus and going around to all the neighborhoods to look at Christmas lights.

When Ella was little, I would take solo trips to the toy stores and shop for her. It was so easy to get carried away with all the steals and deals. Inevitably, I returned home victorious and with way too much stuff. My husband would joke that I needed a sale chaperone — and he was right.

Maybe it was my inner child coming out to play when I spotted all the cute dolls, games and gadgets. When we had our second daughter, I vowed to reel it in and stay on a budget. I started ordering items online to avoid going into the stores and adding shiny objects to my cart, but I still failed to keep it simple.

I got totally sucked into the commercialization of Santa and his Elves, and when I looked under the tree, it made me a little sad. I felt like I wasn’t setting my children up for kindness, compassion and the true understanding of the spirit of Christmas.

Until recently, our traditions included baking Christmas cookies with Aunt Stacey and visiting Santa, because that is all I could really handle. When your kids are little, they just don’t have the stamina to endure all your great ideas. Then, next thing you know the picture-perfect family outing you planned in your mind has ended in a humiliating toddler tantrum. So, we kept our experiences to a minimum.

The girls are old enough now to understand the reason for the season. Our holidays will be meaningful as we change the focus to family and the spirit of giving. We have adopted a local family who needs some assistance this holiday season, so this will be their first lesson in giving back and helping others. I hope it makes their hearts happy. If not, I might be raising a band of heathens.

We look forward to creating new family traditions as we make memories with the kids. Will there be gifts under the tree? Yes, of course. Just not as many.

Lynn Cristina is a mother of two who works full time as a marketing manager. Contact her at lcristina@tampabay.com or on Instagram @lynncristinablogs.

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