Thursday, November 14, 2013

When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things

 - not the great occasions - 
give off the greatest glow of happiness.

Bob Hope

source
I rarely, if ever, rant on this blog. Today it simply couldn't be helped.

Let me start by saying I love Christmas. I love giving. I love the food, festivities, and warmth the holidays bring. We watch A Christmas Story on TBS all day on Christmas, despite owning it on DVD. Watching Kiddo explore his stocking while sipping a cup of joe with my main man is one of my favorite things in the whole wide world. Just so we're clear.

All that said, I'm fed up with Christmas. With its encroachment on Thanksgiving and Halloween, in particular. It has become a watered down holiday thanks to commercialism gone horribly awry. Retailers are so over the line, they can't even see it anymore.

Kmart proudly announced this week that they are outdoing all other retailers by opening at 6a on Thanksgiving morning. First, I wasn't aware people even shopped at Kmart anymore. I haven't seen one in over 10 years, to be honest. Second, can't Grandma's $10 toaster wait until Friday? Third, and most important, this mine is bigger than yours attitude that has developed between retailers over the last five or so years affects real, flesh-and-blood people. People who need some extra dough around the holidays. People with families. Sorry honey, if mommy wants to keep her job she has to work 24-hours straight through Thanksgiving. Are you kidding me? Are we, as consumers, so selfish as to deny others their family time because we simply can't wait one day to buy stuff that will be a distant memory by the time we've abandoned our New Year's resolutions? If people stopped showing up, there would be no incentive to push the boundaries in such a fashion.


Every year for the past 6 years, Kiddo and I have made ornaments for the people in our lives. Teachers, relatives, friends. It's fun finding ideas and executing them. It's a great way to bond with my child.  This week Michael's had some great coupons. While shopping for supplies for this year's creation, I'll admit I got a twinge of excitement for the Christmas season (we have to start early to get them out in time to hang from trees). Yesterday, with a few minutes to spare before picking Jared up from school, I stopped by our brand-spanking new Kohl's. Christmas carols blared throughout the store and no less than 1/5 of the space was devoted to Christmas decor. Scrooge came back with a vengeance and it took all I had not to push over one of their trees. Not really, but I was on the verge of a good foot stomp. I like carols. But not in early November. Oh, and thanks Sirius, for replacing one of our favorite channels with Christmas music. A month earlier than last year.

What about all the good that can happen at Thanksgiving? I usually buy a meal for a family through a local grocery store. I want to take a moment to be thankful instead of having tinsel stuffed down my throat.


For those of you who put their tree up November 1st, well, that's your thing. No judgement! How you celebrate is up to you. If you came to my house and put up my tree, that's a different thing. And that's how I feel every time I walk into a retailer this time of year. Would you believe that I had to actively search for non-Christmas Kleenex at Target the other day? Like I want to be the oaf with a Santa box of tissues come February because I managed to evade a seasonal cold.

I proposed a radical idea to Mario a couple months ago: a cash Christmas. As in, no credit cards or dipping into savings. It took a while for him to come around. But he did. Each person gets x amount of dollars and it may buy ten presents or four, depending on what we decide to gift each other. Mario and I are on equal footing rather than trying to show our love and gratitude through the volume of gifts we purchase for each other. I also proposed pulling names out of a hat and having a gift exchange among Mario's family members in lieu of buying everyone a gift. And there's a $25 cap. I'm not sure how it was received by certain participants, but I don't really care. I don't want the burden. I don't want to move excess stuff next summer. There are people in my life who give obligations, not gifts. I want out.

The ornaments we make? They are gift enough! I don't have to keep stuffing the box with more things. What drives such behavior? Guilt? Pride? Perfectionism? A bit of each, I imagine. But I'm removing myself from this impossible scenario our culture nurtures. It has made me resentful of my gift recipients and come the 25th I'm usually burned out and stressed.

I'm tired of the rat race. Of agonizing over what to get people. I'm tired of being broke come January. I'm tired of forgettable gifts because quantity was prized over quality. Last year Mario gifted me my camera, perhaps the best present I've ever received. We enjoy it as a family and I'm recording memories. I've found a passion for photography. I honestly can't remember anything else I was given. And I know the boys feel the same way most years. I want my kiddo to grow up knowing how to spend responsibly. If I get him out of the holiday black hole before he's had a chance to fall prey, I'll consider myself a good parent in this department.

I've spent a great many years trying to keep up with the Joneses. Trying to outdo myself from year to year. Then I figured out the Joneses were just as stressed and in debt as I was (perhaps more). I want to enjoy Christmas with my family. So we're getting back to the basics. I realized the other day that next year we will likely be across the country and unable to enjoy Christmastime in New York City. Walking around all bundled up, looking at the window displays, eating great food, flexing my photography skills (this will be my first Christmas with a fancy camera). So we budgeted for a 2-3 day trip to the Big Apple between Christmas and New Years. That's gift enough for me, truth be told.

In the meantime, I can't help what's going on around me. But I'm staying out of it. I won't let it invade my headspace and my wallet. You'll find me enjoying the season when the season actually arrives; but you most definitely won't see me trampling another human over a cheap foreign-made television on Thanksgiving day. This is me taking back Christmas.

6 comments:

  1. I completely agree! I wish I could buy a few nice thoughtful gifts for my family and not spend sooo much money! My idea of an awesome Christmas is all about decorating and baking oh and making ornaments! I will secretly admit that I love getting lots of presents...maybe it has something to do with the fact I am an only child!! But these poor retail employees, really who wants to shop at midnight on Thanksgiving...not me!

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    1. You're the best, Ang. Baking, decorating, and time with the boys. That's Christmas for me.

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  2. Amen! We haven't used credit cards for over 10 years except perhaps a token emergency situation here or there and immediately paid it off. It has meant we get less and don't always have the latest - but by golly, we are not paying off Christmas in June either. We have two children and by and large, they have not missed a thing. There is a dollar limit on each person and it all must fit within a budget. PERIOD!
    I love Christmas and am a huge fan of movies and music - but even I have gotten to the point that enough is enough. And a little known secret - you can skip Black Friday and live to tell about it. Stores run similar sales throughout the season and then there is the internet.

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    1. We are striving to get where you are now in terms of debt, Nicki. You are always such a source of wisdom! This Christmas we are doing the same... a budget for each person (Kiddo gets a bit more since a certain someone also brings gifts for him). It has been a bit adjustment, but we can't imagine going back to our old ways.

      And as someone who also doesn't participate in Black Friday, it's true. I'm alive. :)

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