OPINION: Materialism is expendable, the holidays guarentee family time

Alexandra Lisa | Staff Writer

Christmas has always been the one day of the year I am guaranteed to spend with my family. The one day.

I don’t know if everyone truly understands what that means. My parents’ work schedules are built around providing a life for their children. My dad has come home from work at two in the morning before, just to leave two hours later so he can be back at work at five. He’s the General Manager of Red Robin, so the success of the restaurant pretty much rests on his shoulders. It seems like no one can last a day without him. Even on his “days off,” his managers and other team members blow his phone up with requests and questions and updates. He spends about three hours on a good day, working or not, on the phone with work. We just got back from Disney, from his vacation, and he got between two to three calls every day. On vacation.

He’s worked on Easter before, he works on Father’s Day every year, he can’t make each of his children’s birthday parties every year, he even missed Thanksgiving on one occasion. I am not bitter about it: I appreciate every minute he puts into his job, because I know he does it for his family. I appreciate when my mom drives two hours to the Oncology Hematology Care (OHC) building every week day, and every other weekend, despite technically having Saturday and Sunday off. In the beginning, I resented them for never getting home before five o’clock, but time has shown me they hurt twice as much as I do. We do not get the luxury of living a comfortable life comfortably.

But Christmas, every year, is guaranteed. Every year, we pile into the car and head to New Jersey, where my dad’s side of the family is getting our rooms ready in all their respective houses. (My mom’s side gets Thanksgiving.) Every year, I can look forward to the same Christmas tree, alive and freshly chopped, reaching towards the ceiling. Every year I know we are going to have the same Christmas meal. It’s a very Italian meal: we ditch the ham for chicken parmesan and the cranberry sauce for marinara. Cannolis in place of pie. Stuffed shells in place of salad. Very Italian. I don’t even know exactly what a “traditional” Christmas meal is. Ours is the only one I know.

My dad’s relatives are exactly how you would imagine an Italian family in New Jersey. We pile our plates with layers of meat, wheat, sauce, and cheese, and carry twelve different conversations across the table at a time. We’re loud. We’re disorganized. We’re opinionated. And, since the beginning of my time, that tradition has made us inseparable as a family.

And it’s guaranteed, every year.

Christmas has always been my blessing, in my eyes, something that I was lucky was never a debatable, might-be-there-might-not event. But this was reinforced when I heard of two family friends of ours. Friends of my parents, and therefore of mine, this couple is going to be separated during Christmas. She’s going on a mandatory Christmas trip practically the entire month of December, which means she will not just miss the holiday, but practically the entire season. I heard her admitting to my parents that she just was not in the holiday spirit this year, that she could not get past the fact that she would not see their house in its decorated glory. Because the business deemed itself more important than her traditions.

Holidays in general are becoming increasingly more material. Black Friday deals are now available the entire week of Thanksgiving, and stores are opening as early as 3 p.m. on Thanksgiving Thursday, depriving even more working people of the chance to enjoy the day with their family. The meaning of a holiday is gradually being replaced with what’s better for business. Family is gradually becoming more ignored so that the marketing world can shine.

Regardless of what holiday it is, of what religion you are a part of, nothing should ever be more important than the special occasions you set aside for family. If moving four times has taught me anything, it’s that having someone, having a family, who is always there for you is all you need. I have lost material things. Things like jewelry and clothing, posters and postcards – material things go without a fight. That’s why we do not celebrate them. Family fights to get to you, to be with you. That’s why we celebrate them.

I would be lying if I said I was not looking forward to the gifts, or winter break, but those are not the reasons why I love the holiday season. I love it, I wait for it, because it’s yet to let me down. It’s guaranteed. That is not something everyone has.