I remember one Christmas when we kids were completely resigned to the idea that we weren’t going to be getting any gifts at all that year. My mother had pulled my two brothers and me aside and given us the grave news as compassionately as she knew how. Papá hadn’t worked as much because of all the rain that season, my two elder sisters and my parents were paying a lawyer to help them attain a green card that would grant them permanent legal residence in this country, and well, the fact of the matter was we just didn’t have as much money. Incredible as it may be to believe nowadays, my brothers and I weren’t really devastated at all. We weren’t even disappointed. We knew papá and mamá were doing the best they could, and that’s all we could ask of them. We were, after all, the same kids who had hand-sewn stuffed animals for toys and pigs and chickens for pets.
Doing without was our way of life back then. We didn’t know what we were missing, and that was okay.
So you can imagine the elation and excitement in our hearts and faces when we awoke on Christmas morning to find three simple, unwrapped toy cars sitting in the living room awaiting us as a surprise. My parents had somehow managed to scrounge together enough money to buy them. In all honesty, they probably weren’t worth more than $5 apiece, but to this day, those three simple toys and that particular Christmas stand out in my heart and mind as the most memorable Christmas.
MAKING MEMORIES CREATIVELY
We learned something invaluable that year. I think there’s a lesson there for all of us on how to make each Christmas the “best Christmas ever” for our children without spending a lot of money.
Think Outside the Box • Not all great Christmas gifts come with festive wrapping and bows. Sometimes just spending time with our children, making a cup of hot chocolate, watching a movie, and having a conversation with them is more significant than any material items.
Have Fun With Your Gifts • Even if the gifts you have for your kids are modest, you can still have a little fun with presentation and delivery. I always wanted my parents to make us go on a scavenger hunt to find our Christmas presents. That would have been so much fun for seven kids! Not so much for them, probably.
Give the Gift of Giving • If you’re able to, teach your children the importance of being grateful and lending a helping hand. We were never well-off enough to donate our money, but my parents’ motto was always: If there’s room enough for two, there’s room enough for three. My mom would always find a way to help others with what little we had. Whether it was inviting extended family members to Christmas dinner, taking our used clothes to Mexico for our relatives there, or literally taking the coat off her back to give it to someone else, she taught us that there was always a way to help someone else. My wife Anjelica and I both try to teach our son, Edgar this same lesson.
Read Related: What to Do if Your Kids Don’t Appreciate What They Have
Be Merry • Nothing takes the joy out of the Christmas season like sour grapes. How many of us experience holiday fatigue, especially when our resources are less than abundant? What we sometimes forget, however, is that how we project that frustration can directly impact our children’s attitude and sentiment towards the holiday season. Make an effort to keep your road rage and shopper’s fatigue to a minimum around your kids. Step away for a moment if you have to.
Be Spontaneous • One year I decided I was going to dress up as Santa Claus and surprise my son Edgar and all of my nieces and nephews for Noche Buena. I looked entirely ridiculous (with a pillow stuffed underneath the Santa costume), all of the adults in the room were falling over with laughter, and most of the kids knew it was me underneath that beard and wig. But to this day, everyone still asks me to come back as Santa. That was probably the second most memorable Christmas for me.
So there you have it. This Christmas, think smaller. Remember that less is sometimes more, and remember too that every December 25 is an opportunity to teach our children important lessons about life, kindness and gratitude. ¡Feliz Navidad!