Focus on togetherness, not things, this holiday season

Columnist Mike Davies contemplates the importance of family during the holidays

If you were born anytime before about 1987, you’ll know that sometime in the 1980s Folgers Coffee began running their iconic “Peter Comes Home For Christmas” commercial, where a man breaks into his parents’ house (okay, it looked like the door was probably unlocked), and is met by a young girl who welcomes him and tells him “Everyone’s asleep.”

He tells her “Shhhh, I know how to wake them up,” and they make coffee together, the smell of which wakes up the rest of the house. The family comes downstairs to find a clearly-unexpected Peter, their now-adult child, and they celebrate being together for the holidays – and coffee.

Despite the terrible acting, the message is the one that has stuck with me through all these years, and likely will to the end of my days.

It’s the message I got (maybe not directly expressed in words, but it was there) from my family as I grew up, too.

This season is not about the pile of gifts under the tree or the new car with the big bow on it in the driveway (has anyone else always wondered if you actually get one of those bows if you buy a car in December?). At least it shouldn’t be.

It’s not even the look on a child’s face as they unwrap that gift that makes it special – despite that definitely being one of the best parts of the season.

It’s being there to see it. The gift of being there is the best gift of all.

I remember my first Christmas away from my family. I was maybe 24.

I thought it would be fine. I told myself it didn’t matter, because, thankfully, I was with another family who welcomed me like one of their own – but it wasn’t the same. All I wanted for Christmas that year was to be with my mom and dad, the way it had always been, and I would have traded any and all of the painstakingly-wrapped gifts I received that year and the next (and the next) in order to have had that opportunity.

After we’d opened gifts and had breakfast that year, I wandered in the snow and cried most of the day.

Think about that while you’re out finishing off your shopping this year.

No, don’t think of a 24 year-old me wandering in the snow wiping tears off his face – that would be super weird – but think about whether you get be with the people you want to be with this season.

If not, think about whether you can remedy that, even if it means fewer gifts for people.

Because I guarantee the people you’re buying for would rather see you happy than own whatever it is you’d be wrapping for them, and you’ll be happier this holiday season if you’re with the people you love.

Thanks, Folgers (and Mom and Dad).

Now, where’s my coffee?