My recollection is that it was the Christmas of 1982. Two significant things happened for me that Christmas that have had an impact on me for over 30 years. I was 15 years old and we were living in Washington, NC. I believe it was our first Christmas in Washington. My dad was a pastor and this was the first house we had ever lived in that was not directly located by the church. It was probably the first house that ever felt like our house. My brother and I had the upstairs to ourselves. It is possible that all of this could have been the following year in 1983, but the impact and the lessons are still the same.

I don’t recall every Christmas or the gifts that I have received over the years, but I remember a few prior to 1982. One year, my dad bought us a CB radio base station. My brother and I “found” it before Christmas and he made us pay for it. He bought us a 16 ft. jon boat one year. I remember that gift because of some memories we made with it. We got a go cart one year in the 70’s that my mom had slipped up and told us about before Christmas. I recently came across a ceramic figure that my aunts made for Christmas one year when I was a boy. I recall traveling to both grandparent’s house each year during the Christmas season. On both sides, we were the only grandchildren that came every year so they spoiled us. I’m sure that you have a list of Christmas memories as well.

The reason that 1982 sticks out to me is because of the two things that I still carry with me today. Maybe these two things will help you look at Christmas a little differently and allow you and your family to better celebrate Christmas.

Thoughtful giving
The first lesson I learned that Christmas was to be a little more thoughtful in my giving. Both of my parents grew up in poor homes and never had a lot of possessions. Though our parents were adults and had teenage children at this point, my brother and I inquired of them what was one thing they wanted for Christmas that they never received. Our mom wanted a baby doll and our dad wanted a gun and holster set. My brother and I didn’t have a lot of money because neither of us had jobs, but we took money we had received as Christmas gifts and bought mom a doll and dad a toy gun and holster set. It was not something they could find useful at the moment, but it was thoughtful. I knew it meant a lot to them then, but not until recently did I understand the fullness of its importance. While helping my parents move, we came across that gun and holster set. He never got rid of it. When we are thoughtful in our giving, it has an impact on the recipient. People’s hearts will hold on to the things with meaning long after they have forgotten the things without.

Every year we would travel at different times to our grandparent’s homes and we had spent several Christmas days away from home. That year though, dad said we were going to start a tradition of using Christmas Eve as our family Christmas time together. In the living room of that home in Washington began a tradition that I don’t think we have missed now for 33 years. I look forward to being with family, eating a meal together and creating a massive amount of Christmas-paper trash. We will take home gifts, but they will not be treasured as much as the time we will spend together. This tradition is established with my own children as well. To always be with our family on Christmas Eve is the only thing I’ve ever asked them to promise me.

This Christmas will be better if all of us could learn to practice these two things. Learn to be a thoughtful giver and create traditions for your family. Give from the heart to the heart and make memories. The memories made together will be greater than the gifts that lose luster over time. Enjoy the splendor and beauty of Christmas with the wonderful relationships you have been blessed with on this earth.