Mr. Grump Concerned by Christmas Trends

December 2, 1982.

Dear Tammy:

Remember the other night when I was sitting down at my desk? You walked up to me and said, “Daddy, why are you such a grump at Christmas time?”

You caught me off guard, and I replied I didn’t know I was that way. You assured me in only the way a 14-year-old daughter can that I have been known to be grumpy during the Christmas season in years gone by. And, you said I appear to be warming up for my annual Mr. Grump act again this year.

In all honestly Tammy, I do have some concerns about Christmas and how it is being celebrated. It is not so much that the merchants now display Christmas decorations and gifts before Thanksgiving. I’ve sort of gotten used to that.

Do I believe that Christmas has become too commercial? Yes, in a way that is true.  But I do enjoy buying gifts and receiving them as much as anyone else. So that is not my major concern.

You asked if I thought we spend too much money during the Christmas shopping season. Mother and I seem to spend no more, but again, no less, than other parents. And yes, I do become a bit concerned with the $30, $40 and $50 gifts being advertised for children this year. Some are closer to $100 and even more.

Many feel we now get much more of Santa than we do of Jesus during the Christmas season. I know the original purpose of Christmas was to celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus. And it is interesting how the manger scene under the Christmas tree seems to symbolically get covered up by the brightly wrapped gifts and presents.

But, Tammy, I believe Christmas can be for both Jesus and Santa. I can still remember when I was a child and the joy and jubilation I had at Christmas with Santa Claus. And somehow he did not destroy or negatively influence my belief in Jesus or the awe of His birth we remember at Christmas Eve.

Perhaps my main concern about Christmas is for me, Tammy. It has become too competitive. Consumers compete to see how much we can purchase in six weeks, and the results will be broadcast nationwide. Parents seem to compete with ourselves and sometimes others, this year over last, to see how many gifts we can bestow upon our children. And children often appear to compete with each other in how much they get from various givers. Wants seem never ending.

One Christmas season I read a statement by one of our pioneer forefathers. At that time he also happened to be president of the church to which you and I belong.

In 1903, at a time when parents had much less to give their children, Joseph F. Smith said, “It is very gratifying to parents to be able to respond to the desires of their children, but it is undoubtedly a cruelty to a child to give it everything it asks for. Children may wisely be denied things which even in themselves are harmless. Our pleasures depend often more upon the qualities of our desires than upon the gratification.”

Our church leader also stated, “A child may be laden with gifts which afford him little or no pleasure, simply because he has no desire for them. The education then of our desires is one of far-reaching importance to our happiness in life . . . It is just as wrong systematically to give a child everything he desires as to deny the child everything. President Smith then concluded “The ability to give to children wisely is indeed a rare attainment, and is acquired only by a thoughtful and prudent exercise of the highest sense of duty which parents can feel for their children. Duty is always preferable to indulgence.”

I read these quote every year before Christmas time, Tammy, and think about them often. What you have perceived to be my moodiness may actually be my inner struggle with duty and indulgence.

During the next few weeks remind me when I seem to be grumpy and I will try to change. But please be aware of my concern that the importance of the giver never be replaced by the importance of the gift during this Christmas season or any in the future.

Love, Dad

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