Apparently a major holiday is rapidly barreling towards us. Have you heard?
I may be a misanthropic hermit, but I also adore Christmas with utter abandon and it was with no small amount of glee that I chose the “Christmas Classics” station on Songza this morning as Adam and his dad strung Christmas lights outside.
So I mean, I’m no scrooge, let me get that out of the way first. BUT. Obviously there is a but, and the but looks like this:
I just… we are better than this. I can’t even write more than that because I feel such deep sadness when I watch videos of footage like this that I just want to call the whole thing off, throw in the towel and cry heavenward, “To hell with it all! It’s hopeless! We’re horrible! RAPTURE US ALREADY!”.
Let’s all take a solemn vow to stop with this nonsense already. Deal?
Clearly the scene above isn’t indicative of most people’s holiday preparations. For most of us the shopping is done in a manner considerably more restrained,and less punchy. For most of us, our shopping involves a few more lattes and fewer police officers. AND YET. The spirit of excessiveness and greed and MINE MINE MINE MINE MORE MORE MORE does seep in.
It’s sort of insidious. Every year you plan to cut back on the crazy, and then when you look at the one gift you selected with such care and attention, it suddenly doesn’t seem enough. So you add a little something here and something there, and then you see something on sale and something on Pinterest, and then you buy two other things that you find while you’re waiting in line to pay for the first three things.
Then you worry about your kids feeling forgotten or unloved on Christmas morning so you pick up a bit more just to fill out the stocking a little. Aaaand something for you, because why do you always find awesome things for you ONLY when shopping specifically for other people?
I get it. My goal isn’t to shame or to blame, I promise, but I will be totally transparent about my deep desire to nag you a little. A teensy bit. Just in case you are like me and haven’t started any of your shopping yet and want to take some concrete steps to create a more personal, more eco-friendly, and most of all, less consumer-stress-debt-argghghhh! oriented holiday.
For your consideration I present to you:
Five Things You Can Do To Make Christmas More About Love and Less About Stress-Filled Consumption Rituals
- Arrange and participate in a Secret Santa gift exchange with adult family members. Most adults have enough. Look around you. What do you really need? And if you do really need that thing, do you need it more than you need an hour spent alone looking deep into the glowing embers of a fire whilst sipping a delicate whisky? Because if you do a secret santa gift exchange you will have all the whisky-sipping time in the world, because you will be buying a gift for exactly ONE person instead of say, twelve.Can you do math? I can’t, but if I could I would say that the amount of time and money you’d save by doing this more than makes up for the shit you’ll take from family members for even suggesting such a thing, but trust me when they too are sipping whisky while toasting their toes on the hearth instead of elbowing some bitch out of the way to get the last whatever, they will be thanking you. And then you can thank me.
(I appreciate artisanal goat cheeses and good books.)
P.S. You can go hi-tech on this one and do it through sites like Elfster, which allow you to customize a draw, prevent two people who hate each other from drawing each other’s names, and also create helpful wish lists. My brother hates Elfster, but I think it’s just because it’s named Elfster.
- Go Easy On The Kids. I have always said this, but I can say it with authority now that I have a child of my own: Kids have too much crap already please stop with the things that light up and make sounds and require assembly and batteries – always with the assembly and batteries!We typically tell friends and family that their thoughtful gestures are appreciated, but Olive does not need anything. She has drawers full of clothing and a living room full of toys, she has a full belly and a giant dog.
She does not need anything.But what I’ve found is that this does not work, and it’s not that our family and friends are jerks who enjoy defying our politely worded requests (RIGHT?), but instead because it’s hard to not get a child something.
Christmas is, at its core, about children. And because I am not a scrooge – promise – I don’t want to take away that excitement and rip and tear of gifts, but I do want to shift the focus a little. So instead of getting a thing, how about getting an experience? Take the kid in your life to a movie. Let them order anything from the snack bar that they want. Take them to the science centre, the ice rink, pull their toboggan up the hill unlimited times.Bring them on a spa day for a haircut and manicure, take an overnight trip just the two of you (with the parents permission! Oh my god, do I really have to say that? But seriously ask the parents).
Gifting experiences, not things, is so incredible for kids. Six months from now they won’t remember who gave them what, but they will always remember the time the monkey flung poop at their uncle during their special zoo day. As an extra bonus, with this gift you are also giving a gift to the parents because you are taking their child off their hands or an hour or two. And I mean, really. That’s just fantastic.
- Shop Locally. I am a big believer of shopping locally whenever possible. (This doesn’t mean you have to feel guilt when you don’t, it doesn’t always work. But just exhaust your options locally before heading to the big box stores.)Support the people in your community. Go to the small stores, the independent bookstores. Shop Etsy or craft fairs or bazaars. The experience is so much more fulfilling than standing in a cash lineup with dozens of other disgruntled shoppers, and you actually get to meet and connect with the talented person who made the gift your husband is going to fall in love with. It is such an amazing feeling, and if you’re going to spend money it might as well be to support someone working in fair-trade conditions, in your own town, supporting themselves through their endeavour.No one works harder than a small business owner (spoken as someone married to one), and in this world of Target and Amazon, they really need your support.
- And While You’re Saving Christmas, Why Don’t You Just Go Ahead and Save The Planet Too, Mmmkay? If you have wrapping paper lying aroung by all means use it. But if you don’t, might I suggest a few eco-friendly alternatives that are only slightly eye-rollingly hippie dippie?- Cute tea towels
– Newspapers glammed up with fabric ribbon, stamps, washi tape and what have you (look how cute!)
- – Your husband’s old shirts, cut up into pieces (I’m sorry, Adam. It was time.)
– Vintage maps
– Reuseable bags
– et cetera and so on. Get creative! (That’s a writer’s way of saying “I’m out of ideas, how about you do some work now?)
I am a big fan of newspaper because it’s free, easily found and provides a great neutral backdrop for decoration. It does require that you select your pages judiciously, however, so that you don’t end up like me on Christmas morning 2011, realizing that my niece’s gift features a rather large ad for a liquor store front and centre.
Dammit Madeleine, get it together!
5. Remember: It is Enough. You have enough, you are doing enough.
You are baking enough, decorating enough, and you have sent enough Christmas cards (even if you haven’t sent any. Ahem.). You have bought enough, spent enough. You will receive enough.
Your Christmas is good enough. I promise. Now stop elbowing people out of line like a crazy person – it’s whisky time!
(In the coming months I will be featuring more posts like this one, related to my book “All You Need Is Less“. Each of these posts will have a link to my book’s amazon page at the bottom. I hope you can endure, and possibly even celebrate, this shameless self-promotion because I am so very proud of that little book and all of the work it took to write it. I want to do everything I can to see it succeed in the world, so bear with me 🙂