End of the Innocence

Last Christmas, we had a new rule: No presents allowed under the Christmas tree. It was a difficult and expensive year and my family decided as a group that we didn’t want to exchange gifts. We decided to still do stockings as a way to keep the holidays festive and fun, though we kept the cost minimal.

We woke up early on Christmas, donned matching outfits and headed downtown to the Civic center to volunteer our time serving Christmas dinner to hundreds of homeless people and those in need. There were a couple minor gravy burns, but in all it was a wonderful experience. We were exhausted and happy all at once. In fact, we didn’t even get around to sifting through our stockings until the 26th.

This year, I’m told we probably won’t be exchanging gifts again. The elimination of stress over the holiday is wonderful, though I can’t help but feel a little conflicted.

First off, I have a job this year. And as such, I have means to buy people gifts. I love Christmas because I love getting people things. I love sharing and supporting interests. But to break the rules and give others gifts would come off as tacky.

I don’t know… I guess I just realize that now that we’ve established this pattern, it’s likely that we will never celebrate Christmas the same way again. And that’s fine. I’m happy to spend my time volunteering with my family and laughing about the joy that some people have, even when their life is in a shopping cart. I love watching my mom speak Spanish with young, struggling families and watching my dad be a real life hero, running inside to get presents for little children who couldn’t make it on time. The happiness on those children’s faces over a single toy is ten times the joy that I showed over my gifts as a child.

I’ve never seen a perfect stranger hug my parents so hard and with so much love.

It really is one of the most treasured experiences. Volunteering is our gift to each other. But in a way, my childhood is over. Santa Clause doesn’t come anymore, his elves don’t write messages on our mirrors, his reindeer don’t leave prints on our lawn. Lighting the tree has somehow become my responsibility, and a little bit of the magic is gone. There’s still a great sense of magic—or love rather. Last year, my older brother and I drunkenly crafted dirty covers to Christmas songs (I distinctly remember one cussing out the Christmas tree because the lights decided to surge).

But a chapter of my life is over. It’s not a bad thing, just a bittersweet thing to realize. Christmas lacks the same energy about it in the same way that Disneyland loses some of its glitter. I used to think that I didn’t want to get married or have children, but my sentiments have changed over the last three years. And in a way, it’s selfish; I want to see the magic I felt reflected on my child’s face. I want the excitement and the sneaking around. I want the homemade booby traps and the all-night marathons to stay up and catch Santa (we never could).

The Daniells family, 2009

Now who knows how long this will last
And now we’ve come so far so fast
But, somewhere back there in the dust
The same small town in each of us
.I need to remember this
So baby give me just one kiss
And let me take a long last look
Before we say goodbye.

Just lay your head back on the ground
And let your hair fall all around me.
Offer up your best defense
But this is the end
This is the end of the innocence.
-“End of the Innocence,” Don Henley

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Hi, I'm Marian.
By day, I'm a PR maven with a nerdy affinity for research and branding. By night, I'm an explorer; I delve into books, food, design, and the murky waters of my own psyche, then share my musings here.





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