Christmas Gifts that Brought us Together

Christmas Gifts that Brought us Together

Janalee Marriott shares how her parents encouraged a spirit of giving and intentionally thinking of others. Their family tradition gave each family member an opportunity to secretly focus on someone else for the month of December—to gain a greater sense of selflessness and love. The thoughtfulness, laughter, and appreciation experienced through their simple yet purposeful tradition led to increased genuine care that bonded them to one another, teaching them to look outward. We share her experience with you here.

christmas giftIs there anything quite like Christmas morning? The twinkling lights on the tree, the smell of pine as we walk up the stairs, familiar music playing, and the dancing fire in the fireplace. It’s a morning different from any other the entire year. But even with all its magic, my favorite part of Christmas isn’t Christmas morning. My favorite part is Christmas Eve, before Santa ever comes down the chimney.

We’ve had a tradition in our family for as long as I can remember called Secret Pals. The tradition begins the night of Thanksgiving when we put all of our names in a bowl. Then one by one we take turns drawing the name of that special person, our Secret Pal. Then on Christmas Eve we give our Secret Pal a gift. The rule is that the gift given must be handmade (not purchased), created from our imagination and personalized for that secret someone.

As children, we would often find materials to create the gift from Mom’s endless cupboard of fabric or in Dad’s skyscraper of a woodpile. We took many trips to the local craft stores, and on nearly every bedroom door hung signs that read, “Do not come in. I’m working on my Secret Pal gift!”

For one entire month my thoughts were focused on the person whose name I had drawn out of the bowl, and for that one month I felt completely drawn to that person. I always wanted to sit by him or her at the dinner table or kneel by him or her at prayer time, which would innocently expose my secret prematurely. As I got older, I learned to disguise my obvious bias for one member of my family until that brilliant night before Christmas. More than any Christmas wish list, all my thoughts rested on the gift I was about to give.

There was never a wrong or bad gift as long as it was made from the heart and created by the individual. Anything and everything was accepted. There were gingerbread houses, homemade pillowcases, handwritten poems, unrecognizable pieces of wood nailed together, basketball hoops, freshly painted piggy banks, and photos and t-shirts of memorable moments. There was never a dull moment on the night of the exchange. Unexpected emotions—from roars of laughter to streams of tears—led to pure exhaustion, a sure recipe for a good night’s sleep. The overall feeling was a closeness and love unique to anything I had ever felt.

Now with my own children, I am trying to recreate that magic, that love, by carrying on the tradition of Secret Pals so that my children will find joy in giving and experiencing the process of becoming a lifelong “secret giver.”

Today’s post is contributed by Seeing the Everyday magazine. For more information, go to seeingtheeveryday.com

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