Christmas' 'spirit of giving' evolves with age

When I was little, around this time of year, my elementary school’s music room would be overtaken by jolly volunteers and crammed full of cheap stocking stuffers as part of the annual Santa’s Workshop fundraiser. It was this school-wide event where kids came in and bought presents for their parents and other loved ones. I loved poring over all the little knickknacks and baubles, carefully picking out the things I really wanted, and then, in the last couple minutes or so, grabbing some stuff for Mom and Dad.

Christmas shopping was different for me as a kid. When you’re younger, the holidays are all about things you want to see appear under the tree. You make your list, check it twice and mail it to Santa in hopes that he’ll squeeze through your window (that’s how I thought he came into my house, since we never had a fireplace) with those prized boxes in tow.

On the other hand, rarely did I think, “Ooh, I just can’t wait until Uncle Arnie sees this box of sausage I got him!” It’s not that I was a selfish, spoiled brat. It’s just that when you’re a kid, holidays are all about you – or so you think.

This year marked the first year I bought everyone on my list presents with money that I actually earned, instead of the couple dollars my dad handed me on the way to school for Santa’s Workshop.

Believe me, it was hard seeing the balance on my debit card dwindle from the hundreds to just enough to hopefully buy a few Happy Meals to survive on for a while. But I can’t even begin to describe how excited it felt to pick up an item at the mall and think of how happy my mom, boyfriend or best friend would be while unwrapping it. In fact, I went gift-giving mad, buying a little something for all of the editors at this very paper and even my dog (who has destroyed every present she has ever received within an hour of receiving it).

I feel like this is the unspoken rite of passage that comes with getting older. Of course there are still things I want, and the kid in me is excited to tear off the shimmery bows and shiny colorful paper in glee. But somehow, I’m even more excited to give the carefully chosen (and terribly wrapped) presents to the people I care most about.

Every time I walk by the corner of my room where I’ve stashed all my gifts, I feel a sense of pride. For the first time in years, I actually feel spirited.

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