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Stop Commenting on How We do Christmas

Photograph by Getty Images

To look at my dining room table is to see remnants of Thanksgiving. Name cards carefully crafted by my daughter remain in their places. An empty glass water pitcher stands frozen in time atop the bronze autumn colored tablecloth that needs a good washing. The chairs are pushed back, as if the meal just ended.

But just about everywhere else in this house, it’s Christmas.

It seemed like only moments after the last dish was put away that I felt a gentle tug on my shirt. I looked down to find two small faces smiling up at me, wondering if it was finally time to decorate. It didn’t take much convincing.

Within a few hours, Christmas took over the house. Angels appeared on end tables and jingle bells found their way into the family room. The nativity scene popped up near the fireplace and decorative trees and candy canes lined the front door. With music, lights and giddy laughter, our home took on a new feeling — the feeling that accompanies Christmas magic.

This might come as a surprise, but at 40 years old, I am still a firm believer in Christmas magic. Perhaps some of the details have changed along my journey, but the magic remains close to my heart.

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When I think back on my childhood, Christmas was always an enchanted time of year. But not for the reasons you probably think. Sure, there were stockings hung by the chimney with care and gifts under the tree come Christmas morning, and those were always fun. But it was the time spent together as a family that made the season.

There were gingerbread men and sugar cookies made with my three siblings each and every year. There were adventures in tree procurement that always yielded the same result: Mom picks the tree. There were stories by the fire carefully crafted by my dad and presents wrapped for one another. There were moments of beauty all around us as we decorated the tree together.

And then there was Christmas morning.

We all have our own beliefs and we all have our own traditions. Isn’t that what makes the holiday season full of joy and wonder?

My daughter recently asked me to share my favorite gift from Santa. I stared out the window at the pouring rain as my mind raced down memory lane, but the truth is that I can’t remember a favorite present from my childhood. What I can remember is this: high-pitched laughter and squeals of delight as we took turns opening our gifts. The scent of my mom’s mouth-watering cinnamon coffee cake warming in the oven. The impossible flash of my dad’s camera going off every few minutes, leaving us red-eyed and somewhat giddy. The warmth of Nana’s house as she welcomed us in from the cold, and the spirit that brought us all together when Grandpa fired up the Singing Machine. The moments, big and small, that made the holiday special for us and the smiles that never left our faces as we celebrated Christmas as a family.

That, right there, that’s the magic.

I’ve seen countless posts and updates about the so-called downside of Christmas magic in the past few days. Some say it’s all a bunch of lies, and we are only setting our children up for disappointment. Others argue that we, as a society, have lost the true meaning of Christmas. Many people loathe the Elf on the Shelf and have no problem leaving hateful remarks about it on social media. Others fight back because they enjoy the tradition. Resentment seems to lurk beneath these posts and updates, and the negativity sends me running into my own little cocoon of Christmas spirit.

Sometimes I envy the holidays that my mother enjoyed when we were kids. There was no Facebook to provide a running commentary on all things holiday. There was no Internet to supply an endless list of opinion posts about the true meaning of Christmas and whether or not Santa has a role in it. There were just friends, neighbors and family members sharing smiles, laughter and holiday greetings throughout what always felt like a joyous season.

I fear that the incessant need to share every thought and opinion on social media will trickle down to children and crush the spirit for some. I worry that my daughter will one day be ridiculed for her beliefs or, worse, have them taken from her by those less kind. I never once questioned the magic of Christmas when I was a child, and I want my kids to hold their beliefs close to their hearts without ridicule and judgment from a world that can’t stop talking.

But before you hit “publish” on that rant about Santa, stop and think about the people on the other end of the feed.

“Remember, Christmas magic comes from your kind hearts,” I whisper to them each morning as we make our way to school.

We all have our own beliefs and we all have our own traditions. Isn’t that what makes the holiday season full of joy and wonder?

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My only Christmas wish this season is that people spread kindness and respect instead of judging the traditions and beliefs of others. I, for one, won’t be listening to the chatter. But before you hit “publish” on that rant about Santa, stop and think about the people on the other end of the feed. Take a pause for the cause and consider the feelings of others.

Because when it comes to Christmas magic, it all comes down to kindness. All you have to do is open your heart.

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