1974
We Make Memories for Christmas
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“We Make Memories for Christmas,” Ensign, Dec. 1974, 63

We Make Memories for Christmas

“Is that all?” It was the innocent query of a five-year-old caught up in the materialism of Christmas, after the large assortment of gifts stacked under our tree had disintegrated into a heap of ribbons, paper, and empty boxes.

Was that all? For weeks we had planned, schemed, and worried about how to satisfy the children as their lists grew longer each day. I had even taken a part-time job as a salesclerk so that the children wouldn’t be disappointed and we wouldn’t have to go into debt. But, in order to accomplish this, we had sacrificed evenings of carol singing, cookie making, and story reading, the real spirit of the occasion, so we could fulfill these materialistic Christmas dreams. How futile our efforts now seemed!

In 1903 President Joseph F. Smith said, “Our pleasures depend more upon the qualities of our desires than upon the gratification,” for, said he, our desires “incite us to energy and … make us productive and creative in life.” (See Juvenile Instructor, July 1903, p. 400.) If our desires are weak, our creations are likely to be puny and worthless. He went on to say that children who have everything they want, when they want it, are most unfortunate, because their capacity to enjoy has been greatly weakened by not having to wait.

We gave this some thought, realizing that the education of our desires is really the important thing! So, last Christmas, our family of nine held council and decided to forego exchanging gifts. We decided instead to “make memories” for our family. As a result, we pooled our funds and went on a camping trip—to a sunny beach in Mexico.

What a lovely Christmas Eve! After decorating our campsite we caroled to the other campers in the park, and then we settled down to our traditional storytelling. Each family member told his favorite Christmas story. We sang “Silent Night,” had family prayer, and retired to bed with a strong feeling of devotion toward him whose birthday we were commemorating.

When morning came, there were no gifts to unwrap, but we played a glorious game of football in the deep, warm sand of a deserted beach (I didn’t even mind getting tackled), and we ate a delicious Christmas dinner of freshly caught shrimp. It was truly a happy day.

When the Christmas vacation was over and we returned home, we knew we had a memory that would linger long and become ever more precious. Even this year, with two children recently married and two serving on foreign missions for the Church, we hope to keep our sights above commercialism and give of ourselves in the true spirit of Christmas.

  • Mildred Chandler Austin writes for the Church Instructional Development Committee and serves as mother education teacher in the Ninth Ward Relief Society, Provo Utah East Stake.

Illustrated by James Christensen