When I was younger, my family was very poor. We weren’t always poor though. We had different stages of wealth, which happens to a middle-class family in America. We had times where we were okay. We could afford to buy groceries, we could have internet, we could afford to have two cars.

Then there were times where neither of my parents had jobs, we had maybe one car that needed to be fixed but we couldn’t afford the parts and we were living off of government-issued food stamps. It always seemed like a limbo of making things work, like my parents were standing on a balancing beam between working enough to afford everything and being too poor to make it.

During our hard times, this made Christmas difficult.

Some years, when my parents were doing very well, it was obvious by the gifts we would get. One year, my dad bought us a DVD player that could play five discs. I couldn’t believe my eyes when he brought out that big box from under the Christmas tree. Was this what it was like for well-off families who could buy their kids huge toys every year?

Then there were years where it was obvious that we didn’t have a lot of money. The presents were smaller and they were cheaper. I knew my parents were trying to make it work. They wanted us to at least get something for Christmas, despite not having a lot to give. After a while, I noticed we’d get more candy in our stockings over presents because a bag of candy was cheaper than a bunch of DVDs and CDs.

At the time, I cared a lot more about what I’d get each year than the holiday itself and I stopped liking the holiday altogether because it made me feel so disappointed. It wasn’t fair to my parents that I felt this way because they were doing the best they could, but I was too young to realize that.

Now, I’ve understood those years and have learned to love this holiday not just for the presents you get on Christmas Day, but for how much culture and history is in Christmas. I love all of the traditions and hearing all of the different ways people celebrate this holiday. I love learning about legends and Christmas songs and watching all of the Christmas movies.

There are so many things going on during this time that I can’t help but to want to experience it all. I think Christmas is now my favorite holiday because I’ve realized that the presents don’t really matter in the end.

It’s being around people you care about and being nice to one another that matters.

And I feel like people are just nicer to each other during the holidays. Maybe it’s just me. But if you’re worried about what you’ll get this year, don’t be. The most important thing is who you spend it with and how you spend it.