No matter what your age, it is difficult to remain immune to the magic in the air at Christmastime. However, it seems that the harder we work during the year, the less time we actually have to rest, enjoy and reflect when the calendar wraps up. The run up to Christmas becomes more of a race to beat the crowds, rather than a time to take stock and exhale.

Having a four-year old for whom Christmas is now really something to get excited about, I should be getting my act together. Since late October, it’s Christmas everywhere I look! Gone are the days where I find battling it out with fellow bargain-hunters exhilarating. These days the nervous tingling sensation is more akin to what I imagine must be a sign of an oncoming stroke.

I will not be fooled by all the carols streaming through the mall for over a month, and all things Christmassy that are masked in packaging of good tidings, when actually they are marketing gimmicks to make a sucker out of you (and me).  So this year, I am putting my foot down and not letting them commoditise my Christmas. Let me explain why.

I often read parenting blogs and discussion boards, and of course Christmas is topmost of all topics. I find myself struggling to comprehend the lack of restraint when it comes to Christmas gifts. I have come across lists that would overwhelm Richie Rich: toys, clothes, costumes, sports equipment, video games, DVDs, books (the one category I agree can never be overdone) iPhones, iPads (yes, even for toddlers) … all for one family. The lists are long and more often than not, expensive.

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Don’t get me wrong, I do get it. The sheer joy on my older daughter’s face and the peals of laughter when presented with anything new are priceless. It warms my heart. But honestly, my girl gets excited by practically anything, regardless of the time of year. So I would like to reserve Christmas for a lot more than just wrapped gifts and tinsel.

My gripe is not only about gifts. Adults are also guilty of trivialising Christmas. Parties and get-togethers provide unlimited opportunity for frivolous expenditure. Now I’m just sounding like Scrooge, right? I mean after 350-odd days of work and very little play, Christmas is the time to live it up – surely all of us deserve that. Of course. But, to me it all seems rather empty if that is all it is about.

In the midst of the madness, it is so easy to forget that, for some, there is a greater meaning to Christmas, and that regardless of your religion or lack thereof, a little respect for this season would not be out of place.

My sentiments might resonate with fellow Africans for whom Christmas was more about reconnecting with your roots; gathering with family to partake in ridiculous amounts of delicious food, or taking dusty road trips to the village to spend a week with grandparents. As teens, we bemoaned our separation from the city, but secretly, the days spent catching up on the latest family gossip and listening to our parents bragging about how well we did in school or sports was entertainment in its own right. There was more fellowship in the kitchen and around the dining table than at church, as we celebrated one another and gave thanks for the bygone year.

I know many non-Christians or plainly non-religious people for whom Christmas has nothing to do with Jesus, but who nevertheless spend this time of year reaching out to family and friends, showing appreciation to those around them and being thankful for life itself. This year there have been too many reports of families who have lost loved ones in tragic circumstances and I cannot fathom the pain they will go through. Maybe that’s one reason why I find myself reflecting on what Christmas means to me and what I want my girls to appreciate about this time of year.

I am trying not to be swept up by the transient dazzle and I am being more mindful of what those closest to me really need from me. Some may need me to pay a bit more attention to their unspoken words; for others it may be peace and quiet after a year of hardship; and for others still it may be filling their empty day with food and laughter, just so that they do not feel as alone.

I’m striving to teach my daughters that the birth of Jesus is about kindness, generosity and hope. Those are the gifts I want to give to them to pass onto others. Love and grace can still be wrapped up in the magic of Santa, Rudolph and gifts under the tree. My four-year old has no trouble adopting both into her Christmas narrative, so I’m taking lessons from her.

About The Author

Sifa Mtango-Zadarnowska

Sifa is a Tanzanian nomad, who today calls Sydney, Australia home. A practising solicitor, Sifa has represented clients from various industries conducting legal disputes in New South Wales and the Federal Courts. Outside her day job, Sifa is passionate about international legal and social issues and as a student, she published articles on human rights topics. Today she continues to engage with community and professional groups on issues of significant social relevance, particularly concerning the African diaspora. As a mother of two, Sifa’s greatest joys are her family and friends. She enjoys music, theatre and reading – making time to indulge in these activities as often as the “real world” permits.

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