There is no right number for the amount of presents to be placed under your Christmas tree.
If you take nothing else from this column, remember that.
No matter what you glean from the Good Book nor what your friends write on Facebook, the number of Christmas presents under your tree is your own decision.
For a variety of reasons, there is a fierce debate taking place right now about what exactly is the appropriate number of presents to be placed under the family’s Fraser Fir.
A lot of it has to do with the stark difference between the haves and the have-nots in this country — a difference that is only more in-people’s-faces when we are able to peek into each other’s living rooms via social media.
In some homes, there is more. In some homes, there is less. Much less.
In some homes, families show more. In some homes, families stick to less.
The thought behind the “less is more” concept when it comes to Christmas present originates with the story of Jesus’ birth and how the three wise men each brought the savior a gift.
If three gifts was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for Cindy Lou.
That’s a wonderful sentiment. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it.
Just as there is nothing wrong with the opposite approach — stacking presents so high there’s little room to maneuver around the tree.
That’s how we do it in our home. I don’t know of any other way I want my daughter to wake up on Christmas morning.
Yet, some of my wife’s friends and some of those she interacts with on social media, have criticized this, although not always directly.
“You’re entitled,” they charge, as if being entitled is really a character flaw (work as hard as Michelle does at being a good mother and then try to tell me she’s not “entitled” to an abundance of presents).
Some of my wife’s friends have written on social media about how they don’t want to see the Christmas trees with presents all around them. Conspicuous consumption is not about the true meaning of the season, they say
They are certainly entitled to that opinion, but I still plan on creating an avalanche of gifts underneath our four trees (that’s right four trees).
Why? Because for me, it wasn’t always that way. Except it was.
After my parents divorced, my mother married a horrible man whose ability to ruin holidays with his drunken criminality seemed to be his only talent. On several holidays, the lights I remember most are from the blue and red gumballs atop the police cars.
The better Christmases were the ones when my, um, stepfather was, um, “away” for a time at one of Florida’s state prisons. This was unfortunate for my younger half-sister and half-brother, who missed their father no matter how much of a son-of-a-bitch he was, but at least there would be peace.
But with him gone, someone had to step up and make sure Christmas happened. Before I was a teenager, this responsibility fell to me. And, damnit if I didn’t turn out to be one helluva Kris Kringle.
By working extra hours at the neighborhood Publix … by selling Christmas trees at my school’s sale … by hustling every way an awkward white kid could, the holidays happened.
There would be presents. A lot of them. Some purchased. Some given from charities. Some acquired in ways I’m not proud of today.
But as long as I (and my brother Patrick) were around, that part of Christmas for the two younger children would not be interrupted by the mistakes of our parents.
Today, twentysome years after those blurry, not-so-silent nights, cycles of bad parenting have been broken and new traditions have been created.
Yes, this aspiring Clark Griswold goes overboard on the holidays. From the first week in October when the Halloween lights go on display until the morning after Michelle and I celebrate our anniversary in January, it’s nearly one hundred days of champagne and charity and Elves on Shelves and elaborate photos and visits to Disney World, all while remembering Jesus’ birth as the greatest gift of all.
And, most of all, there are a lot of presents under the tree. For me, it’s always been that way, even when I did not have the resources I have now.
The same drive that pushed me as to pick up that extra shift at Publix is the same drive that wakes me up early to write — except for one morning each year when there are all of those presents under the tree.