Christmas is upon us! But the jolly man dressed in red will be taking a bit of an absence from this year’s festivities for a few reasons, but the first one’s hard to work around…
After two and half years of being a parent, there are things I would have thought I’d know by now. For example, times when it’s a bad idea to take your toddler to a restaurant:
- When she’s so hungry, she’s grumpy
- When she hasn’t had a nap
- When she’s been running around all day and exhausted
…an even worse idea is taking her out when all three apply and you add a 7 ft Santa walking around the restaurant surrounded by screaming children.
This weekend, we discovered that our 2 and half year old is terrified of Santa. We ended up having to leave the restaurant with our food hurriedly packed into takeaway containers to escape Ol’ Nick. If you could hear her crying, you would have known it was life or death.
Sorry, Santa – not this year.
But, I’m not a big fan of Santa anyway…
Santa’s become a character that strikes fear in the heart of parents- not just kids – around the world.
If you’ve ever worked in in a toy store (or dared to step foot in one) during Christmas, you’ll know what I mean. There are parents frantically scrambling to find the right gift, or making sure Santa can read the scrawled letters from the kids or trying to work out which version of which toy they were meant to be getting.
Somewhere, there’s a shop assistant wanting to grab a customer by the shoulders and yell ”NO, SANTA DOES NOT NEED TO GIVE YOUR CHILD A $100 TELESCOPE TO GO WITH HIS REMOTE CONTROLLED HELICOPTER.”
…oh and by the way, if your nine year old is judging his gifts on the dollar value of Santa’s presents, something’s not right.
But, I’m a fan of Christmas…
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.
For me, Christmas is wrapped in significance. For many, like myself, it’s a key celebration in our beliefs of who we are and what we do. But what I look forward to is turning off my phone. I’ll be honest and say that spending so much time online means taking away from time I spend in person with the people who matter in my life – many of which aren’t on Facebook or Twitter.
Don’t get me wrong, I like presents.
In fact, for the past few years, a steady pile of presents grows in our house. Wrapped shoeboxes filled with small gifts (many of that have been handmade by my wife – like the little boy pictured below) start multiplying and finding their ways into every spare space we have in the study.
But they’re not for us. They’re for Operation Christmas Child.
Giving gifts to those in need with Operation Christmas Child
Hand made for Operation Christmas Child
Since 1993, over 8 million shoeboxes filled with gifts (such as small novelty items, hygiene goods, stickers, clothes and school supplies) have been distributed to children in need in over 150 countries through Operation Christmas Child.
Not only is it a way to give the children something to celebrate each year, but it opens doors for more community work to be done such as digging wells and a new sanitation system in Papua New Guinea.
This year will mark the 3 millionth shoebox being contributed from Australia/New Zealand. The stories we hear are that many of the children who receive the shoeboxes have never even owned anything themselves or even received a gift. They approach things we take for granted with surprising gratitude – some kids who received something as basic as a cake of soap don’t actually use it, but savour it for its fragrance.
It’s humbling – but also exciting, because this year that same two and a half year old who’s scared of Santa knows that the toys in the boxes in the study aren’t for her.
Earlier this year we sat on the couch together and watched this video about Operation Christmas Child together and after a little bit of explaining, she jumped off the couch and made a beeline for the study to pack shoeboxes for “all the little children.”
I could not have been happier.
As parents, we all draw lines in the sand somewhere. We want the best for our children and want them to see the world in a way that will help to shape their future decisions. I know it’s going to be an uphill battler, but we want our daughter to know that Christmas is a lot more about how we can be a positive influence in the world and a lot less about what’s under the Christmas tree.
For us, Operation Christmas Child is part of that.
Do more this Christmas
If you’re interested in Operation Christmas Child, you can have a look at their website and maybe even get involved for next year’s efforts.
But, it’s this isn’t about Operation Christmas Child, it’s about making Christmas something more than expensive presents or Santa – but find a way to do good. It doesn’t matter if you’re ‘religious’ or if you’re just in it for the Christmas sales, there’s a real opportunity to make something more of it.
Image thanks to partymonstrrrr on Flickr