The Trouble with Christmas

I’ve been doing a lot of complaining lately, mostly about Christmas, and came across this post http://marlonikkila.wordpress.com/2010/12/21/12-ways-to-simplify-the-holidays/, which suggested making a list and checking it twice, essentially asking what do you love and loathe about the holidays?

So I decided to ask myself the ‘why doesn’t Christmas feel right anymore?’ question that’s been rattling around for the past few years. And the answer is simple: Christmas isn’t satisfying because it lacks substance. It’s just full of pointless ‘stuff’ that is marketed at me and the rest of the world, and I’ve been trying to hit the ‘opt-out’ button.

Here are some of my thoughts on the Rituals of Christmas, what I like and don’t like and what I think I’ll change and hold onto:

Cards: Getting a card makes me feel good. I feel remembered and appreciated. It then computes that perhaps others feel this way too, and giving cards could be a great thing to do for others, and not too expensive. I know cards can be a pressure for some, and I didn’t do them this year either, but it’s not that hard to do. So, I am going to send “New Years” cards out. I’ll cross off the “Merry Christmas” and write “Happy New Year” instead and hopefully get a little chuckle out of it. I don’t need to stress myself out with a Christmas letter or a personal note in each one. I just want to let people know I remember them.

Decorating: I enjoy other people’s decorations. I don’t have much time for them myself. I don’t have a tree. It doesn’t seem like it needs to be there because we’re not having Christmas at our house, so we don’t need to put presents underneath anything. If we had Christmas at our house, I’d certainly splurge. This year, because we are having guests, I did put up a few decorations so the place looks sort of festive, but it’s pretty minimal, and I like it like that. At this point, I’m pretty happy with what I’ve got. Decorations are nice, but pretty pointless for just the two of us old grinches!

Food: Cooking, baking, and sharing meals is something I’ve really gotten into this year, and I think more consumable gifts will be on the cards in the future. Put in a practical or attractive container, people can reuse the container and enjoy the gift for as long as it lasts, and then the pressure that comes with receiving presents is gone. Also, I am going to be more healthy about all the other meals and splurge for the Christmas dinner event, as per previous “Feasting” post.

Travel: We do a lot of travelling during the year to see family and friends. And it’s no wonder. Consider where we live! There’s only 4 of us here, and frankly, there’s not much else to do here but visit with us. Now, that’s not a terrible thing, we’re not too unpleasant to sit around and chew the cud with, but when you can also go to the beach, the river, riding, shopping and see up to 8 family members in one weekend, well, it stands to reason we’d do the travelling to those destinations. I actually don’t mind the travel, but I know it stresses out Mat, who does most of the driving. With more people on the road, and more people with alcohol in their system, and stress on their mind, or rushing to get to somewhere, it’s not a nice time of year to be driving long distances. My hope is that we will travel less next year. We will go to either my family function or his family function and not try to be everywhere and do every event. One trip. Stop. Relax. Return. Ah! 🙂

Spending and Saving: Money stresses me out too. I hate spending money I don’t have. I abhor debt, and I am in debt this year by far more than I can readily absorb. In the new year I am going to start saving $50 per pay towards Christmas. I’ll have $1000 by 1st November that way. That will cover the cost of extra food, fuel for travel, and presents. Normally I have enough saved, but this has been a tight year. So rather than let another tight year sneak up on me, I am going to plan ahead.

And Finally … Presents: Presents are nice. I like presents. I like giving them and receiving them. But I hate shopping for them. Hate it. This is my problem with Christmas!

As a child, there were two great things about Christmas: spending time at the farm with the family and hanging out with my family, and eating that one big meal together, and finally graduating up to the ‘adult table’. What an honour! 

The other thing was Santa. I loved the stocking (filled with nuts, mandarines, socks and undies) and that one great present. Oh, don’t get me wrong, the other presents were awesome, and it was always so much fun – a loud crinkling chaos as we all handed out the presents and opened them quickly shouting out a “Thank You Grandma” over everyone doing the same. But there was no surprise like Christmas morning and getting that ONE great present.

But the stress of buying gifts is silly when most people already have more than they need, and I don’t know what they’d like. There’s lots of pressure around giving, and of receiving – of being gracious and using the item and not discarding the item. I don’t want a gift that isn’t going to be useful and make my life better. I don’t want stuff just so I can tear off the colourful paper. I mean, if that was all we wanted, let’s all just wrap up empty boxes and rip them open on Christmas day!

Ooh, that’s another neat idea for next year! What if the boxes had a note that said “If I could give you anything in the world it would have been a ______” (ferrari, vacation, dream home, a thousand hugs, more time, less stress… the possibilities are endless!!)

To take the pressure off, our family has drawn names again this year, and although it’s hard to know what to buy when you get someone you haven’t seen in 5 years, it’s nice to only have to think of them and work through that, rather than trying to buy dozens of meaningless presents and breaking the bank!

Shopping has been the big stickler for me these last few Christmases. It is in fact what I hate about Christmas. Because, mostly, presents are just stuff. Somehow the need to buy presents has taken over everything else about Christmas, and this is where my feeling of emptiness around Christmas seems to be coming from. 

Refer to the www.storyofstuff.org and the golden arrow, the drop in happiness as consumerism increases. Honestly, I feel that! (This is another page that can be added to my favourite information about living more sustainably. That and Fighting Globesity by Philip and Jackie Mills.)

Now, I’m not at all religious, I’m not concerned about the birth of Christ or going to church or singing carols, but I do want to have that warm feeling of being surrounded by friends and family, enjoying a nice meal, and having a great visit and nap afterwards. That’s all I want for Christmas!

Thoughts? Feelings? Anyone? Buller?

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3 responses to “The Trouble with Christmas

  1. Hi! It’s Marlo. 🙂 I really enjoyed your thoughts on “making your list and checking it twice.” Looking through your posts, it seems like we have a lot in common and I welcome the opportunity to get to know each other. If you are interested, feel free to email me personally at marlonikkila@me.com. 🙂 Enjoy your day!

  2. Pingback: The No New Gifts Holiday Challenge « Chasing the Blackwood Marathon·

  3. Pingback: Christmas Preparations | Chasing the Blackwood Marathon·

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