There’s a long-standing tradition among Mennonites that as a kid, I hated. But now as an adult… nay, a grown Mennonite man I find myself looking back and remembering a simpler time.
The tradition of course was the practical gifts that parents would give their kids instead of just video games, iTunes gift cards and Poké-whatever. Gifts for boys included tools, socks and underwear and gifts for girls included cookware, dishes and silverware.
Don’t worry, I know what you’re thinking, and it isn’t about gender roles and expecting boys to be mechanics and girls to be housewives. You’re thinking that giving a kid plates and hammers for Christmas must have been very disappointing for the child. Trust me, it was. But like all good parents, ours had a bigger picture they were looking at – teaching responsibility and planning ahead and so on.
As the years passed and our ‘gifts’ collected dust inside our closets we forgot about them, moved on with our lives and grew up. But then one day after we’d found that special someone to share our life with and we got married and moved into our own houses we would begin unpacking all those old, yet unused goodies and memories of Christmases long ago would come rushing back. Our gifts were practical because Mennonite families didn’t usually have much in terms of money, but there was always something special waiting for us as well. I remember one year my brothers and I each got a tractor trailer set, mine was different than theirs though, mine was blue and it was meant for hauling cars! I loved that truck and played with it often.
Truth be told my brothers and sisters didn’t really get that much in the way of tools and dishes, we did but not like other Mennonite families. We got presents and toys and we always enjoyed what we got and that’s why I started thinking back to the good ol’ days.
There’s a lot of hoopla about modern Christmas time and how it’s become overly commercialized and kids these days are spoiled.
That may be true for some but the fact is that my parents gave us everything they had! Maybe retail giants have hijacked Christmas and are trying to turn our kids into a bunch of greedy toymongers…I’d buy that. But I think that the reason most of our kids these days don’t know what Christmas is all about is because parents these days don’t teach them.
Yeah we can blame Walmart and Target and those dang TV commercials that make kids want things or we can take a cold hard look in the mirror and take responsibility for our kids being spoiled brats. I think that many of us got to adulthood and took those things about our childhood that we didn’t like and told ourselves that we would do better. And then we did, but in the process of being better we threw the baby out with the bathwater.. so to speak. In an effort to do away with what we thought were bad memories, we also got rid of the good. Which is a travesty if you ask me. You see those practical gifts that got stuffed in a closet were opened up later, when we were able to appreciate them. For some, opening up that gift triggers memories of years gone by, before all the pressures of being a grown up came into play. For others who may have lost one of their parents it’s a chance to honor them and thank them.
For me, when I’m reminded of past Christmases I see how much my parents truly loved me. They worked really hard for what we had and they gave even more, I can’t help but think that at times they chose to risk it all just to give us a Christmas.
The whole reason that I am even able to give my kids more is due to the sacrifice made by my mom and dad. So yes, my kids get more presents than I got, but not because I’m trying to outdo my parents in some bitter attempt to show them. My kids get more because their grandparents sacrificed more. And someday they will look back at the Christmases we had together and they’ll smile as they reminisce about the good ol’ days.
So here’s to all the parents who know what it feels like to work really hard for what little you have only to give it away to that little child that God gave you.
The spirit of giving started when God gave us His Son in the form of a little human baby who would one day sacrifice Himself for us. It is in that spirit that we give to those we love, wholly and sacrificially.
And you know what? When I open up that pair of socks from Mom and Dad this Christmas I know that it’s way more than a pair of socks.
Have a very Merry Christmas friends and remember Jesus is the reason for every season!