When my daughter was growing up, I did the full on Christmas. We had the house decorated to the nines, had the annual (and costly I might add) Christmas party, and gave gifts to everyone under the sun.
I did what every good American did around the holidays. I shopped till I dropped. I was brainwashed into believing that I had to overindulge if I wanted to provide my family with a happy Christmas. At the end of it all, I was exhausted, in debt and I felt empty.
Christmas has become distorted. It’s turned into something so unrecognizable that I fear the Christmas I once knew, the Christmas of my childhood, is long gone.
The Lie of Commercialism
Let’s start with the notion of the obligatory gift giving. Many of my readers write to me regularly asking for help in doing away with whatever has become the norm in their respective families. They are tired of “having to buy” for ALL the nieces and nephews, ALL their brother’s and sisters and well, you get the idea. You can just fill in the blank when it comes to who many of them feel obliged to buy for.
Where does it say you have to buy for all these people?
The time has come to start crossing people off the list and to pair it down to a group of people that meet certain criteria. Only you can decide what that criterion will be, but here are a few things to consider:
Are they important to you? – By all means, keep important people on the list like your husband and children. But what about your neighbor, the bus driver, the mailman? These people, although hard working and good people, if we are honest don’t fall anywhere near the top of the importance list.
Are they school aged? – I’m a firm believer in only buying for smaller and high school-aged kids. Once you’re an adult, gift giving should be drastically pared down or eliminated altogether.
Is there something you can do for them that doesn’t require money? – I like to invite friends over for a nice holiday dinner in place of gift giving. We all pitch in and enjoy each other’s company.
Do you have a budget that allows for the giving you want to do? – Often we go into the holidays with the notion of wanting to buy a special gift for someone, but our budget doesn’t meet our fantasy.
How do your values play into your desire to give gifts? – Some people really value gift giving, and some don’t. You may find that overindulgence when you actually sit and think about what you value, isn’t high on the list.
If we allow ourselves to be influenced by what advertisers tell us, we would be buying for more people than most can afford. And although it’s wonderful to be able to give generously, when you’re broke, and you don’t have a nickel to spare it’s an unwise choice to give gifts and do it on credit.
In the end, you end up more in debt, more hopeless, more worried about how you’ll pay the bill.
That doesn’t feel very Christmasy to me.
Christmas has become nothing more than an exercise in the trivial and a statement of excess.
When I was a kid, we waited all year long for that “something we wanted.” The new bike, the Barbie doll house, the basketball hoop.
Today, we don’t seem to wait for anything. We are a society that is so grossly overindulged that by the time Christmas rolls around, we’re just piling more stuff into our lives because it’s the holidays and we’ve embraced commercialism hook line and sinker.
I would argue if you step away from and refuse to participate in the lure of a commercialized Christmas it’s quite liberating. It’s like being liberated from addiction. Once away from it, you suddenly realize the behavior of overindulgence is not missed or needed for true happiness and fulfillment.
And that’s what I’d love for you to focus on this year. All the ways you can have happiness, fulfillment, and enjoyment without having to buy things for people who don’t meet your personal criteria, forcing you to buy on credit, and having no fun in the process.
Embrace A Minimalistic Christmas
I’m not a full-fledged minimalist, at least not yet, but I do subscribe to a minimalistic Christmas. One of the things I love about minimalism is the focus on people and not things. It’s why I love Thanksgiving so much – in part because no gift giving is required or expected.
Minimalism, if you chose to embrace it, helps to foster a mindset of simplicity. When most people feel pressured to buy more “stuff” as an indicator of their love for their family and friends, minimalism instead focuses on people and experiences.
If you are feeling this pressure, perhaps you can relieve yourself of it by embracing the idea of less is more this holiday season and the idea that the holidays are about people, not things.
Enjoying time with family and friends
Helping those in need through a coat or food drives
Singing Christmas carols
Baking cookies or other confectionary treats and taking them to neighbors and friends
Driving around looking at all the beautiful Christmas lights
Homemade gifts and well thought out experiences to share
Simpler holiday meals that won’t leave you feeling overstuffed
Putting up the Christmas tree and stockings
Enjoying a warm fire and hot cocoa
Some well thought out, inexpensive gifts.
This year, when the shopping seasons kicks off, and thousands of people stand in long lines, haggle over the latest and greatest flat-screen TV, and spend money they don’t have for things they don’t need or really even want, I’ll do something different.
I’ll be spending some extra time in the quiet of my home with my family, having some good conversation, playing games and enjoying each others company. I hope you will be too.
This Christmas give them gifts that really matter and are appreciated – the gift of your time and company.