Christmas: the time of year we bask in joy, reflect on the year, and see family members we can never remember the names of. That last part (at least for me) is a massive part of the Holidays, but our Thanksgiving special — appropriately titled ‘Awkward Family Gatherings’ — already touched on that. Thankfully, for the sake of this article, there is much more to be said on Christmas. More specifically, there’s much more to be said about Christmas as a teenager.
As a teen, you’re in that awkward stage of life where you don’t know who you have to give presents to. When you try to follow certain rules, like ‘whoever gives me a gift, I should give them something back’, you’ll probably never remember/be fiscally able to do so. Also, how are you supposed to know how to shop for cousins half your age or aunts you see 4 times a year?
Which brings me to another point: NO ONE KNOWS HOW TO SHOP FOR YOU.
I get it. Really, I do. Between ages 10-14, my personality changed every other day. That’s a lot for people you live with to understand, let alone people you don’t see on a regular basis. After a certain point, I think everyone (except parents, at least most of the time) just gives the teenagers in their lives gift cards. I mean, what else do you get someone who’s not an adult yet somehow old enough to legally have a job?
Of course, I’ve never turned down a gift card, and I doubt any of you have. Heck, when I couldn’t think of anything to get my siblings for Christmas, my first answer was ‘gift cards’ as well. But then my mom chimed in with her opinion and said that — and I quote — “If you’re just going to get them gift cards, why don’t the two of you just agree to not get each other anything?”
This led to me finally understanding something I haven’t for the last 16 years — it really is the thought that counts.
I’ve spent most of my life loving Christmas. My birthday is on the 7th of December, so I always awaited the month. When Christmas ads started showing up on TV, I knew my birthday was approaching, and after that, Christmas would be too! I was the kind of kid who had a hard time falling asleep on Christmas Eve because I was so excited to open presents. One year, I even slept on the family room floor in an attempt to stay up and see Santa.
Now that I’m getting older, I just don’t feel that excitement anymore. I’ve been so busy trying to manage school and work without totally caving in that I honestly keep forgetting Christmas is next week. I’m so caught up in my own life that I forget Christmas time is supposed to be for family and relaxation.
I think this is the first year I’m really beginning to see Christmas from a perspective that is no longer a child’s. Don’t get me wrong: I have no intentions of raiding Whoville and stealing Christmas. I’m just not excited for the Holidays anymore (This isn’t as sad as it sounds. Stick around for the conclusion).
Christmas! ‘Tis the season for you-fill-in-the-blank. At this point, you’ve probably realized that being a teenager during the holiday season can be difficult, especially the gift-giving aspect of Christmas. We’re here to tell you that you’re not alone when your Grandma gets you socks for the fourth Christmas in a row.
Even though I love Christmas, I personally think that giving gifts is super hard and comes with different challenges. As teens, we don’t have as much money as we’d like to, which means cheap presents it is. If you really search, you might find some good ones, but you have to spend a lot of time finding the perfect gift that fits your budget, however small.
On the other hand, homemade gifts are an option as well. But who has the time these days? If you want your homemade gift to actually look good, you have to spend time tweaking and designing it to your liking. Besides that, you have to find the materials to make things, which can get exhausting.
What’s the happy medium? I don’t think there really is a happy medium; we are forced to find what works best for this time in our lives. That probably wasn’t the answer you were hoping for, but you need to follow your gut when hunting for the perfect present. This year, I bought my immediate family inexpensive but nice gifts and made things for everyone else. For my schedule this year--it changes every year, this worked best.
Which brings me to another point: who do you give gifts to? There is subconscious pressure put around gift giving during the holidays, for everyone I think. I have discovered that buying gifts for everyone you’ve ever met can get expensive, so I have devised a solution. Make or buy gifts for the people you love without the expectation of receiving anything in return.
On numerous occasions, I have found myself omitting a person from my gift list because I knew I would get nothing in return, which is a wrong mindset to have. I think at some point we’ve all had this mindset, which is why Christmas has grown so gift-crazed.
I have settled into the mentality that giving is more fun than receiving. I would rather see my friend’s face light up in excitement than get something myself. Buying presents should be a thoughtful expression of love, not a looming expectation. This might sound cheesy, but we so often forget the reason for the season, focusing on the “must-haves” and perfect decorations instead.
Christmas should be about the cooking baking day, laughing when Dad forgets what’s in the box labeled “From Mom and Dad,” and seeing Christmas lights with the ones we love. It should be about putting marshmallows in your hot cocoa while laughing with your friend, eating good food with loved ones, and watching Christmas movies. Presents are a way to show love and appreciation, not a ploy to get more things in our already packed lives. Memories are what make Christmas special.
How does all of that mushy-gushy stuff relate to gift giving? Take the expectation of gift-giving off of yourself and focus on the memories you make. Pick out gifts that make you think of your loved ones, and buy for the joy of giving. If gifts are a priority, find the people that you love and give accordingly. We often make it harder than it needs to be, and I’m growing frustrated with the expectations. Let’s make Christmas simple again; let’s give for the sake of giving and spend the time needed to make lasting memories with our families.
Basically what I’m trying to say is that I don’t understand the point of the Holidays when it’s all based on superficial things. So many people get caught up in having the perfect party, snagging the perfect gifts for everyone, and being the best host(ess) that the real purpose of whatever Holiday you’re celebrating gets lost in the chaos. Like Kayelona mentioned, we spend so much time effort, and sometimes money worrying about making/buying presents to the point it no longer feels genuine. And when it comes down to it… what’s the point? So we can add to someone’s collection of things they don’t really need? So we can hope to get something back for ourselves? So we can never, no matter how hard we try, live up to our own expectation of a ‘perfect’ Christmas?
This isn’t me trying to sound like I’ve found the key to happiness during the holidays; I too used to fawn over things like presents under a beautiful tree or, like I mentioned, being so excited to open said presents I couldn’t sleep. However, I think the insanity that is growing up has made me wonder if you aren’t celebrating for the right reasons, why bother celebrating at all?
When it comes down to it, December 25th (or the holiday you celebrate) is just a day in one of the many years we’ll live through. It’s not a magnetic force that causes everyone to celebrate — we celebrate for whatever we think (as cheesy as it sounds) is the ‘true’ meaning of Christmas.
I love what Lauren said about the Holidays being based on superficial things. Even Thanksgiving has grown superficial, and we’re not even giving presents. I too believe that holidays are growing more superficial and less meaningful to some degree. I think that meaningful Christmases look different to each of us, so it might a lifelong challenge to discover how to have a truly significant Holiday Season.
Lauren’s comment on the 25th just being another day is something I’ve never thought of, but it is quite thought-provoking, isn’t it? We have put so much pressure on one day of the year, and it’s all unnecessary.
If you’re all about gifts and decor and baking, don’t feel attacked by this article: we aren’t trying to say those things aren’t valid. In fact, I feel as though most of my Christmases as a kid were spent enjoying things like gifts and baking. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, if you, like myself, are struggling to define what this time of year means to you, I purpose a challenge.
Define what Christmas means to you. It doesn’t have to be deep or emotional: it can be whatever you want. Because that’s the point of the Holidays, isn’t it? To be happy. Not stressed, not broke, not overwhelmed. Happy.