I’ll start this post by saying that I have no problem with sounding like a grinch when it comes to the commercial part of Christmas. And for that matter, I’m an atheist, so the religious aspect of the holiday has no significance for me either. What do I like about Christmas? I like the lights. And the food. And spending time with family and friends. I do not make a big deal out of Christmas. This year, J and I are planning to volunteer at a shelter during the holiday week, to remind ourselves of how fortunate we are, and to give a little bit of ourselves to others who could use a hand.
In years past, I have been known to buy Christmas gifts for 20 people. I used to think I needed to, which is odd, because my family is not like that. My parents bought or made Christmas gifts for us when we were young, but they stopped by the time we were in our late teens, as they consider Christmas to be a holiday for children. Anyway, I have not always been immune to the Christmas shopping madness. But as the years go by, I find myself more and more disgusted with the whole concept of buying gifts just because it’s Christmas. What a crock. It saddens me that even as adults, we continue to be sucked in by the notion that 1) we need to be buying gifts for everyone just because it’s Christmas time and Madison Avenue has convinced us that we must, and 2) that we need to spend a certain amount – the more the better – in order to not seem cheap. I just refuse to be part of the madness anymore.
My two best girlfriends and I have been exchanging small Christmas gifts since 1994. The three of us all have pretty great lives. We have husbands who love us, warm houses, good jobs that we enjoy, and great friends. Every year, we get each other small gifts for Christmas. I had started to feel frustrated with this process a couple years ago, but I bit my tongue and went shopping anyway. It just started to feel pointless. There is really nothing that any of us need, and yet we were caught up in the trap of feeling that we had to get something for each other in order to prove our friendship. So this year, I said something. I talked to each of them separately, and told them that their friendship means far more to me than whatever gifts we may buy for each other, and that I’d rather we just spend time together during the holidays, and skip the whole mandatory gift exchange. Turns out they both wanted the same thing! They were trying to simplify their holidays aswell, and were thrilled with the idea of getting together to just chat over a cup of coffee, sans the trinkets.
I will continue to make ornaments for my nieces, because I agree that Christmas is a special time for children. And I have a few other gifts that I make or buy each year – the ones I buy usually involve getting photographs enlarged. But I refuse to be one of those bleary-eyed shoppers trudging through the mall with 10 shopping bags and a scowl on my face, trying to find that ‘perfect’ gift – just because it’s Christmas time. With so many people complaining about the crowds, the money, the commercialization of Christmas, it’s amazing to me that the concept of Christmas shopping still has such a strong grip on so much of the population. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, you must be the change you wish to see in the world. I’m doing my best.