Dealing with tragedy is never easy, and during the holidays it gets harder. The ease of Christmas gifts galore under a perfectly trimmed evergreen, the newest video games, phones and bountiful feast seem to happen no matter what.
For one local family, the week before Thanksgiving tested what they believed about what holidays were really about. On Tuesday, Nov. 18, the Villarreal family including junior Elijah and freshman Nick Villarreal, viewed the ashes and rubble of what had once been a new house. With it burned most of what they owned after the insulation in the garage apparently caught on fire. With 10 children, losing a house at any time of the year could have crumbled hopes for the holiday, but the Villarreals saw a deeper meaning.
“It’s going to be a different house so it won’t be the same, but Christmas isn’t about the presents,” Nick said. “It’s about celebrating. It doesn’t matter where you are.”
The Villarreals are defeating the stereotypical holidays by reminding themselves and others of what Christmas is really about.
“I was just happy that all of my family was still alive,” Nick said. “Family is one of the most important things in my life. They are always with me, always will be, always have.”
By uniting as a family and supporting one another, the Villarreals are examples of the deeper reasons for the season.
“My family is very important to me,” Elijah said. “When you don’t have anyone else, they are there. They will be there no matter what you are going through.”
A tragedy like the Villarreal’s can make one re-evaluate priorities and remember how to keep holiday spirit alive in the midst of the challenging moments of life.
“My favorite thing about Christmas is the warm feeling you get when you go into your house with your family and you wake up on Christmas morning with excitement,” sophomore Alex Hindman said. “Without gifts, it would still be the same to me. It takes 10 minutes to open presents, but the rest of the day is spent enjoying family.”
The holidays give time to put other day-to-day problems aside and reconnect.
“My favorite part about Christmas is that I get to be with all of my family,” sophomore Faith Klassen said. “We all live in different places so it’s good to get together. My grandma cooks a big dinner and then we sit around and say what we are thankful for.”
Under all the tinsel, shopping and travel, the holidays are not about presents and traditions, but more about getting back to the heart of the season and celebrating through the art of giving.
“I like giving more than receiving,” junior Melanie Sendejo said. “I like to see other people’s expressions when they receive gifts. It’s priceless.”
The holidays spark a sense of charity in people’s hearts, donating more of their time and money to organizations like Salvation Army or homeless shelters.
“I also like to give to charities,” Sendejo said. “My family normally donate to Toys for Tots. It’s special because they don’t normally get to have Christmas like we do, and this helps them.”
Christmas sparks a sense of hope and love and can place a desire in people to spread that hope to others.
“Giving is more important because it’s more about making others feel good and that makes you feel good,” senior Jaclyn Beaty said. “If you have enough then you are called to give because some people need it more than you. Giving is what Christmas is about. Pay it forward.”
Even without furniture, clothing or electronic devices, the Villarreal family experienced the caring community and family members who began gathering donations. The lack of material things would not matter because with family and good friends, hope remained. It came from the darkest of ashes as they were reminded of the joy of the season.
“I don’t think it will be different from any other year because no matter what, we are still going to be together as a family,” Elijah said. “We’re still going to enjoy Christmas.”