I think that the first thing I let go of was the religious significance of the festival - leaving aside that the date has no meaning in relation to the actual birth (if it ever happened of course) of Jesus of Nazareth (oh and by the way, I'm afraid that there never was any census that required the family to travel to Bethlehem; it's a fabrication) and is in fact a hijacked pagan festival from Europe, and that the Christmas tree is an entirely pagan symbol, etc., etc. - when I stepped away from my childhood indoctrination about religious beliefs, that element of Christmas departed. In effect, my Christmas routine changed, but the festival itself still held a special place in my heart. I still loved Christmas for the joy it brought into our lives.
When my kids were smaller (and still at that wide-eyed "WOW!" stage on Christmas morning, the magic was alive and well and I loved every minute of it. Despite hating - and I mean really hating - crowds, I enjoyed Christmas shopping for my loved ones; it was all fun. Christmas morning was exciting and full of love and joy, and I looked forward to it with as much excitement as the offspring. Even making the Christmas dinner in a steamy kitchen (no, not that kind of steamy!) with a slightly fuzzy head was enjoyable - I immersed myself in the Christmas cheer and wallowed in it like a Warthog in a really good mud pile. Trust me, there is a real resemblance.
Now, my children are 19, (almost) 17, and 15 respectively. The innocent "WOW!" has left their eyes; the excitement has diminished as I remember it doing for me as I began to draw closer to adult life. Of course they still enjoy the season and receiving gifts, but the child's thrill has calmed and has been replaced by anticipation and a degree of excitement which is far more manageable. My own sense of diminishing excitement has at least kept pace with theirs - if not accelerated past them. Now I find that I have to try to enter the familiar Christmas spirit just a little bit harder than I remember doing last year. I look forward to having them all in the house and sharing their gifts and their company, but a piece of me is a little sad that the "WOW!" has gone - at least until it is their turn to watch their children and feel a parent's thrill for themselves.
Part of the change is the fact that the child's phase of their lives is passing now - that's life and I accept it happily because I want them all to enjoy their lives and grow up happy and content - but also part of it is the changing nature of giving these days. The simplicity of gifts seems to have passed in the suburban world - no longer can I choose gifts with any certainty that they will be received with enthusiasm. Now it seems that (although the eldest appears to be reverting to a slightly more gift-based Christmas in some respects) they are more interested in receiving money and/or gift cards which they can subsequently spend as they wish upon whatever they wish. It takes away a huge part of the joy of giving; it makes it very difficult to offer a gift of any kind that adequately expresses my love for the person receiving it. It makes me sad. I wish I could give better.
My gorgeous, wonderful lady and I do not share gifts at Christmas - we stopped doing so a couple of years ago when we realized that we are one another's greatest gifts to each other. After having been apart for twenty two years following a teenage romance, finding one another again remains the most amazing gift that either of us has experienced in our lives, and the wonder of it is still very much alive within us. Being together at Christmas is enough for us both.
Working through my thoughts and feelings, I guess that I do still love Christmas after all. I still love giving, although I'm really rather useless at receiving gifts and get embarrassed very quickly about the whole thing. I love watching the happiness in their faces, and I love the chance to reflect upon how fortunate I am to have these people in my life. I have slowly begun to look forward to the time when tiny people will be in my home again, when we will be able to spoil our grandchildren and witness that "WOW!" that lightens my heart and thrills me so. I feel my late father's obvious delight in grandchildren stirring within me...There's no telling when we will be fortunate enough to have grandchildren, indeed there are of course no certainties in life, but in terms of things to look forward to, that idea is up there with the very best of them. I shall, after all, keep Christmas