Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Eve's Eve thoughts...

I confess, sometimes the Christmas season gets me down. I am made insane by the commercial thoughtlessness the whole thing has become. It’s not what it’s supposed to be about! Christmas can mean many things to many people… But to me, no longer a practicing Catholic, Christmas is about is a time to huddle in with the people close to me; to look at them in the way I sometimes forget to do, to love them; to show them that I appreciate them, that I pay attention and that they are so important to me. It means celebrating the depth of the season before you move on to another year together. It’s about togetherness, warmth and love. It’s about appreciating what you have—being thankful for the blessings of life, family and community. For others, it’s about the birth of Christ—of the values he represented, the goodness he brought to the world. It’s celebrating values.

And for some, it’s a time to fill one’s yard with inflated snowmen imported from China, and to crowd stores at 3AM, stampeding for 30% off of a flatscreen television and X-box games. It’s about HAVE HAVE HAVE. It’s about outdoing everyone in the giving department because your ego and selfish self-satisfaction is more important than the meaning of the gifts or who they’re going to; it’s about buying something thoughtless and random for the sake of wrapping it and cramming it under the plastic tree. It’s about kids sitting in a pile of brightly coloured toys, bored, materialistic little eyes searching for that thing they *really* wanted and they didn’t get. It’s about overindulging already overindulged children—and the appreciation and gratitude they’re supposed to be learning about during this season flies right out the window.

Whoa, that fake plastic candle fountain is just what I've been longing for all year.

Somewhere in Asia, there are factories churning out tons of volatile organic compounds, spewing chemical-laden wastewaters, employing criminally underpaid workers for long, hard hours so we can buy the blow-up plastic yard-decorations and life-size talking Santas—so they can give someone a cheap makeup palette kit made of questionable materials, or those toys that break within a few hours of being gifted. People are buying ridiculous products like Chia pets, ugly slippers, Snuggies and Fragrances by such commercial luminaries as Usher, Faith Hill and Mariah Carey. I mean really? Really?

Ooooh, what I always wanted. ::smirk:: World peace and a Chia Pet.

Kids are being buried in tech toys and games so they can spend the holiday sitting in front of the television, riveted to Halo or Guitar Hero, their spoils of Christmas scattered like flotsam all over the floor around them. Wasteful and just plain crazy.

It’s insane. It really is totally insane. Every year, my husband and I struggle to make ends meet. Every year, we put ourselves in financial dire straights to buy gifts for everyone. We buy one gift for each person. We try to find something relevant, something thoughtful if we can. If we can’t think of that, we get something at least useful. It’s painful to see the kids dismiss our hard-earned gift for the blinky-boopy-techno-gadgets the family “Power-gifter” got them. It hurts to see the significance of our intent be missed by adults because they’re busy calculating what we spent in their heads. We go home with hat and glove sets... one-cup coffee machines and K-Mart sale-table bath and makeup sets. Obviously, these gifts are more about the giver than they are the receiver. It’s about how much they spend, not how much they really care. No thought was put into the gift at all. It's as random as it can be. It’s about getting something wrapped up in paper to fulfill an obligation. I would rather get nothing at all than get piles and piles of stuff that is in essence, wasted money and thoughtless clutter.
OMG, I have to have that because regular throws are SO impractical.
I couldn't survive without it. Do we lose IQ points for every object of convenience we buy? I wonder.

We feel bad for the way we look at this clutter—this stuff that serves no purpose except to take up space. To prove what? That someone cares? I wish they’d take the dollars spent on this clutter and donate it to a family who needs a home or food—put it towards the bills of someone who is over their head… and in place of the pile of gifts, give one, simple, unpretentious, thoughtful gift to us. Even if it’s five dollars! Who cares?

I cannot control what other people do; I am always gracious and thankful, regardless of my feelings towards the presents. We cannot find it in our hearts to tell the family members that we prefer not to receive all these gifts… to spare them hurt feelings. We simply do the next best thing, and the gifts that we don’t need, use or want to store, we donate to Goodwill or Deseret. I know it would hurt people’s feelings to find that out, but we only have 700 square foot house at most… space is at a premium—and there’s no point in storing something that serves no purpose or isn’t used at all.

Ugh. I dunno. But at times like these I think about the bookmark that stepmother-in-law gave me a few years ago. She knows I read a lot. So she made me this bookmark; a simple thing, a string of fishing line with pretty beads on each end. I lose bookmarks constantly… the traditional ones just fall out. This bookmark that she gave me is one of my most treasured Christmas gifts. I use it CONSTANTLY. I look at it, and sometimes smile, thinking; “Sandy… great gift…” It snugs right between the pages, so it never falls out… the beads make it impossible to forget it inside a book, and when it’s not in use, it drapes over the wall-lamp by my bed. Now THAT is a perfect gift. Looking at it, it’s really nothing… fifty cents worth of materials at most, and a few moments of elbow grease. But it’s my favourite Christmas gift I’ve received from family in years. It was thoughtful, useful and handmade. It’s perfect.

Yesterday, we put up our tree. My husband went out and got a live tree, as we do every year. We are not always successful in keeping them alive, but at least they get a fighting chance. I could feel that Christmas spirit again as I hung snowflake after snowflake on its soft, green limbs. I hung up the cards on a string, and put the stockings on the mantel. Tomorrow and Friday, we will spend our days traveling around to see everyone. The decorations are pretty much only for us, in the end. At least we will have Christmas breakfast at home, and have Grandma Georgia and brother in law over this year. Yay!

As today winds down, I will go to see my horse and kiss his muzzle, and give him Christmas treats. Then I’m going to go home, and finish wrapping presents—and spend some time with my frequently absent husband—try to get as much quality time from this holiday furlough as possible. Ultimately, with all this crazy buying and wrapping, quiet criticism of gifts and people ‘Powergifting’ the season into a competitive, mutated version of what Christmas is supposed to be… well… I try to remember what really matters. My husband, my dogs, my horse; my sisters, who I did not buy gifts for because they understand I cannot afford to and would never judge us for that; the ladies I work with, the people I love and care about, and those who love and care about us.

As my father’s health dwindles, and he lies alone in a bed, 3,000 miles away at the Tufts University Hospital, lost in his memories… what I really want for Christmas is for him to be okay. I’d give up the gifts and trappings of the whole season if I could have that.

Merry Christmas everyone. Don’t let the real intent of the holiday get lost in the shuffle of commercialism and materialism. Don’t forget what is really important.


AlohaAroha said...

Oh dear :-( That was quite the rant!

I hate the commerciality of Christmas too. My family didn't celebrate except for the stuff that was really about bonding - hikes up the mountain to get a Christmas tree, and gingerbread house and wreath making parties with friends, decorating the tree with the antique ornaments that grampa collected and telling the stories of where each one came from.

It sucks to be out in the 'real world'.

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas anyway.

Hungarican Chick said...

I know it's harsh, Aloha... But it really has gotten to me this year. I *will* have a good Christmas. I just wish the world was a better place sometimes. Thank you--and a happy Christmas to you too.

Christine H. said...

Very well said. We have started doing Christmas without gifts. It is so much more ejoyable. I hope you have a wonderful time with family and friends.

Sharon said...

All I can say to that is Amen! My hubby and I got some of those horrible Snuggies too.


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