When we young adults expect for something good during the holidays, we always hear “Christmas is for the kids,” as if we shouldn’t get anything anymore.
Christmas definitely felt more special when I was younger.
About two decades ago—at the time when many kids (myself included) wore either ‘elephant pants’ and baggy shirts or Sunday dresses for the holidays—I would watch the daily evening news just for the Christmas countdown. With about 40 days left, my father, who always spearheaded the Christmas decorating, would then bring out our dusty old tree along with the ornaments. After hours of cleaning, wiping, and decorating, I remember my childlike admiration for our tall, twinkling tree.
Even the crisp, fresh smell of new bills was always a sign that Christmas was coming. I’d go to our school party in my (you guessed it) elephant pants and baggy shirt—little trinkets in hand for exchange gifts with my friends—not at all tired from all the prior shopping. It truly felt like the most wonderful time of the year.
Then on my last year of college, my father got sick.
That was the first Christmas when I actually saw how much the holidays had changed. It was also my last Christmas as a student—someone who was always at the receiving end of gifts. Since my father was no longer able to go about his Christmas extravaganza, the following holidays had been a little less flashy at home. Now, there is a single lantern hanging outside our house and a much smaller tree.
But despite everything, I found a deeper sense of fulfillment upon realizing that many of the gifts underneath the tree came from me. That in some way, I was able to give more. As we journey towards adulthood, we try to give back. We buy gifts for our parents and siblings because putting a smile on their faces now becomes our own reward. This act has become our way of sharing our blessings with others, which we find more meaningful.
In spite of the heavy traffic and dreadful long lines for PUVs, we go home content after having spent time with our loved ones at parties that we were so reluctant to attend when we were kids.
Now, we are also the ones handing out those iconic red envelopes as godparents. Isn’t it funny that the roles have been reversed and you are now the one asking for mano from the kids? You might feel old, but hey, now you’ve got more wisdom to pass on to those kids—along with those red envelopes.
I realized that our “gifts” now as young adults had just taken on a different form. Not something materialistic and worldly but something more meaningful. Our family and loved ones’ simple ‘thank yous’ and smiles of gratitude kindle pride, fulfillment and warmth that no material gift can ever give.
We’ll come to understand this season’s true meaning more than what we’ve known when we were a bunch of young, carefree kids. For people like me, with house facades no longer beaming with bright colors, we get to be the light for others.