“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents”
That my friends is the opening line to one of my favorite novels and the first big book I remember reading- Little Women. In the story the March sisters have been told by their Mother they should forgo Christmas presents because “it is going to be a hard winter for everyone; and she thinks we ought not to spend money for pleasure, when our men are suffering so in the army. We can’t do much, but we can make our little sacrifices”
As the story continues they decide to spend the dollar they have on themselves but unselfish Beth convinces them to instead buy a present for their Mother. The girls get as much pleasure selecting gifts for their Marmee (Mother) as if it had been for themselves. They even end up giving their Christmas breakfast to a family in need rather than enjoy it alone.
While I am eventually getting the desire of my heart for Christmas, and the March girls went without, I found myself thinking about this classic scene today as I kind of had a Christmas without any presents.
I’m not complaining at all as I had a great day but it was an interesting experience to have a Christmas with one present to open (an awesome book from my sister! Thanks Meg).
Sadly even the gift to myself was a bust as my Le Creuset pot had a giant crack down the side (both sides). I can return it of course but that was a bit of a letdown.
My siblings and I didn’t exchange gifts this year and my parents are bringing me my gift on Monday (so again don’t feel sorry for me by any means).
I’m not going to lie to you and say my experience was perfect and I didn’t miss opening presents on Christmas. Of course I did. That’s part of the fun of Christmas is opening presents and seeing what people have thought to get you.
But on the other hand it did force me to focus on the day in a new way. I know this will sound cheesy but I found myself as excited to see the reactions of the presents I had sent as I would normally be for my own presents.
Particularly my gifts for my nieces were a big hit. I had found a lady on facebook who made bow and arrow sets for kids and sent one to all 5 of my nieces and they loved them!
I was also excited to see what my Mother thought about the knitting book I got her or my Dad the Beethoven set he had requested.
I also looked at my life for the many gifts I have and tried to focus on those. I got invited to my friends The Porters for Christmas day breakfast this morning and what a lovely way to start off the day. I’m so blessed by good friends in my life. I got to see the sister missionaries and think about the gift my mission was. I’m so grateful my favorite mission comp Julia Graves is coming to visit on Tuesday.
I woke up to snow on Christmas when we had none up to the 24th. I don’t know if I have ever had a true White Christmas out of nowhere like that before. It was really fun.
I put together a version of our German Christmas Eve meal and thanked my Heavenly Father for the food I have and the bounty in my life.
I looked at my tree and felt grateful for each of the memories captured on my Memory Tree. The travels, smiling faces and love that abounds in my heart.
I thought about the joy art, music, theater and film give my life. Yesterday I went to see It’s a Wonderful Life on the big screen and had a tremendous experience (probably causing me to be extra sentimental today).
Aside from the breakfast, I have basically spent Christmas day alone. I know people who would find that idea incredibly depressing, almost unimaginable. And yet today I felt gratitude for the overwhelming blessings of my life.
Mostly I felt grateful for the gift of Christ’s birth and atonement in my life. For my knowledge of His goodness and love and that when I am alone he is always there to buoy me up and I mean ALWAYS.
So yes Jo, I can confidently say ‘Christmas is still Christmas without any presents’. It is what you make of it and in the end we all have many presents just being an America and living a life with a witness of Jesus Christ in our hearts. That is what this Christmas taught me. While I missed opening presents (I’m not a saint!) I realized its a tertiary joy of Christmas not the primary reason to celebrate. Sounds cheesy but it’s true.
And as Clarence told George Bailey- ‘no man is a failure who has friends’. Thanks to all of you for being my friends this holiday season.
9 thoughts on “The Christmas Without any Presents”
My aunt enjoyed Little Women as a child, too. She had fond memories of her grandmother Harriet Davy (1886-1973) reading it to her as a child in the 50s along with The Secret Garden.
I haven’t read it though she did get me to read The Secret Garden which I loved. She too loved that opening line. (I can’t say I like that line from It’s a Wonderful Life much to be honest. Are people failures if they have no friends? Have men with no friends who have struggled to make friends and failed been steered the way George Bailey was talked out of due to hearing that line on TV every year?)
Thanks for your comment and for reading. Secret Garden is another favorite.
As for friends I have rarely met a person who has no friends (family can be friends) when it is not their choice as in Christmas Carol to isolate yourself. I’ve met some very lonely souls but most of the time addiction and poor choices have ostracized them from their friends.
It certainly doesn’t mean such a person should give up but the reverse. Pick yourself up so you can love yourself (we have to love our neighbor as ourselves so both) and then love others.
The point of the message in Wonderful Life is all the benchmarks of success- money, fame, prestige, travel, adventure are not true success. If you have none of that and you love people and are a good friend than you are a success.
Sometimes people reject such friendship. Jesus after all was betrayed by his friend so perhaps the line should say “no man is a failure who is a good friend”. Whether it is reciprocal friendship at a certain point is out of our control but I believe you put love out in the world and it eventually comes back to you in some way.
So it was a Christmas without any presents to open but I am blessed. Main point of post
I think most people set family as being quite separate from friends. And I can assure you there are people who have no friends at all, and are very unhappy with that arrangement. It’s not fair to blame them for making that choice themselves or accuse them of making poor decisions, as if anybody WOULD make that choice.
The reason I say this is because I am one of them. I was taken out of school when I was 6 years old and being homeschooled for the following 12 years, I had 2 friends. One was a little kid who walked up to me when I was 12 and asked if I wanted to be friends. I found him annoying, and eventually he moved away. Another person 2 or 3 years later walked up and asked if I wanted to be friends, then the next day he made offensive jokes and was very immature so I threw a note at him saying I did not want to be friends anymore when he came to my house next time.
And I don’t know how this situation can be changed. The school I am attending to see that I can move on to community is very functional and impersonal. We listen to videos on a computer and answer tests on a computer for 5 hours a day with lunch break at noon, then we go home. Socializing is a problem behavior that can get you expelled. I am not kidding, people are written up for it every time they start talking to each other. And at lunch the administrator sits and watches everyone like a hawk to make sure no one is being bullied. Naturally this makes it difficult for me to open up and be social with people at this one opportunity.
I tried to befriend a fellow homeschooled person I met in the neighborhood once who talked to me about finding my cat. He seemed nice but when I talked to him again and tried to remind him of this previous meeting he was his friend and they both just kept laughing saying they couldn’t remember that and didn’t know what I was talking about.
The world simply isn’t structured so you just have to make friends all the time and contribute to other people’s lives. It’s structured to be as impersonal as possible and people fall in line with that and go about their daily lives right in front of each other with no intention to ever get to know or see the people who are all around them ever again. I got one chance at “real life” to be friendly and socialize with people when my aunt took me to visit some of her extended family recently. There I met people who were like myself, people who I could talk to, and it was amazing. I came completely out of my shell and socialized like I was an extrovert. I got along great, and even got good advice about my life and had a heart-to-heart discussion with someone who cared, but now it’s back to same old same old. I met someone there who was a philosophy major who loved discussing 2001 with me and said he would call me when he actually saw it. Now he won’t even return my e-mail even though we exchanged phone numbers and e-mail addresses.
I agree that none of those things equal success but I don’t like the idea of “if you have good social skills, then you automatically are a success”. It’s so easy for you to say differently when you coast through life with the luck to meet nice people who want to make friends, and I think most people get friends when they are children and never have to try or work towards anything like that.
For me the idea of having one friend has always been my primary goal in life, something until recently I feared I have never achieved. I am sure that is incomprehensible to someone like you but at the moment all I can get is hope, hope, hope, and more, more, increasing ever increasing HOPE………
Thank you for sharing your story with me. I feel awful that I made you feel badly or set myself up as some kind of perfect person.
The truth is I have also faced some lonely times. Times when I felt despair and hopelessness. I certainly haven’t sailed through life as easily as you think. We all have our crosses to bear but I do think the more we can have a prayerful heart and look to serve those around us we will be happier.
I don’t know you so I feel inadequate trying to give advice but stop comparing yourself to other people. Most of the time you are comparing your worst to their best. Everyone has crummy experiences and inadequacies and it is so easy to look at someone and think ‘boy she has it light’.
I don’t know if you are a religious person but it sounds like you are looking for a calling, for where you belong. Make it a matter of prayer or contemplation. You will find it. I spent 3 years in a dark place and I remember telling my Mother ‘it’s like a dark cloud is over my life and whatever I do it won’t go away’. Then finally I quit my job and dived into the unknown. It was the scariest thing I’ve ever done but everything good that has happened to me including this blog has been a result of that leap. I found my calling and could be happy now torn MCL and all.
That doesn’t mean I never feel discouraged or frustrated or lonely (I’m 34 and single believe me I feel lonely) but I have found out what God wants me to do and I’m trying to do it and that gives me hope during the tough times.
As you say hope is everything. Don’t give up. Keep your heart open and you will find where you belong and people who will accept your love. I guess you are right perhaps no man is a failure who has friends is too simplistic. It should say no man is a failure who has a loving heart, who has the heart of a good friend.
There is an old quote by Mother Theresa that gives me some comfort and encouragement:
People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.
I hope that is some encouragement. Hang in there. I know it doesn’t feel like it but it does get better and you will find your place.
Honestly every time you talk about how many friends you have or mention having a friend I feel like you’re personally taunting me and that goes for everyone I meet who mentions having friends as well. I don’t think most people think about life or how things happen in life, how they are supposed to happen at all. They coast through and get what they want through sheer luck while I flounder even though I can see through experiences like meeting a fellow philosophy lover that I have all the potential, yet in cases like my school, I am being literally prevented at every turn from achieving my primary goal that everyone else has, you have, and everyone you’ve ever met seems to have.
I’m sorry if I made you feel sad. I really haven’t had it as easy as you might think. Why do you have to go to that school if you aren’t happy? There are so many homeschool options out there why not do something else? But it is not my place to say one way or another but I do know that things will get better. Have a contemplative and prayerful heart and try new things. Take classes, volunteer, find some way to lose yourself in other people and you will start on the track of feeling happy. WE all have value and I know what it feels like to not feel of any worth and want to give up but don’t. I can tell just from our emails that you have a good kind heart. Don’t give up your hope for the 1 true friend but also don’t be so quick to judge others and assume you know their life stories. Listen to them and find out who they are and what their struggles are. Your life will be the richer for it.
Anyway, I feel like I have made you feel badly and that makes me feel badly. My main point in sharing the quote from It’s a Wonderful Life was to show that the worlds view of success (money, power, prestige) is not real success but you are right the intangibles of real value can be friends, family, a strong self-worth, a calling (writers, composers are often loners but they find their part to play). So what you produce or own isn’t important but the love in your heart and your relationship to God.
But I probably sound preachy. I’m sorry. I just feel bad that I made myself sound like some kind of perfect person which couldn’t be further from the truth. We all have our struggles. God knows and loves us. He will help us find happiness.
I feel this might be of some comfort to you. It is from a leader in my church but is pretty non-denominational. I thought you might like to read it. If not no big deal but figured I’d share as it helped me through a tough period. https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2011/10/you-matter-to-him?lang=eng
But hey let’s talk about philosophy. I’m pretty well read. Who do you like? Email me email@example.com and let’s chat.
The other thing I would add is I was alone on Christmas without any presents writing this post- a situation that would have made the average person sad. I was trying to focus on the blessings of my life instead of the things I dont have. I wish I was married and had children to spend the holidays with but I don’t and it can get sad. But it’s still Christmas and so I was trying to do as Christ would want me to do and count my blessings. Forgive me if I laid it on a little thick. I certainly didnt mean to be boasting about how great my life is. Was just trying to be positive instead of feeling lonely on Christmas. Sigh…