After my annual pre-Christmas toy purging, I indulged in my annual pre-Christmas rant regarding our excess of Stuff. My mother is the long-suffering recipient of my rants. I shared with her how all of our Stuff cannot be good for our souls. I went on about the children’s lack of appreciation and organization as a result of our Stuff. I voiced frustration over storing our Stuff. I expounded on my fear of new Stuff coming into our home at Christmas.
My mother patiently mentioned that when her ten children were young she could remember about twenty things we had for toys. That was it. Stuff was not a problem for her because we didn’t have Stuff.
“But Mom! What about all the Stuff that came in for Christmas?!” I wailed, desperate for an answer to the dilemma.
“Oh, there wasn’t much money for gifts, so they were simple things that added to something you already played with. I always made skirts for you girls or new doll clothes. I made pajamas for everyone. The boys got another model car or dinosaur for their collection. Everyone always got a book. That was it. Three simple gifts.”
I was stunned. I remember Christmas having all the magic of childhood. I remember great excitement Christmas morning and wrapping paper flying everywhere. I remember our happiness with our gifts.
There was never any question back then, or now in my own family, that the incarnation, Jesus Christ, is the central focus of this holy season. But do you mean to tell me it can be celebrated with minimal Stuff?!
For many years my parents did not have a fancy nativity set. They made one out of cardboard and paint. We loved that little set! Most of the tree ornaments were homemade. With little money for extra baking, there was one kind of cookie we children always made and mom baked sweet breads for friends and neighbors. Only one kind of cookie! We thought they were the most beautiful, delicious cookies in the world.
Christmas dinner was a feast and there was always company around the table. Now I know how hard my mother worked, carefully planning and purchasing over the month of December to make it all work out. Everything from scratch, Dad even made the wine.
After that conversation and the flood of memories, I am resolved once again to limit Stuff. Not just limit, but change our attitudes a little. More joy, less Stuff. More people, less Stuff. More holiness, less Stuff.
The Holy Family surely did not have Stuff. No family could have more joy than they did. The way to follow them is straight and simple, and it’s not littered with Stuff.