The Season is upon us.
After several years of "Grinchdom", when I said, "The heck with Christmas!" I suddenly find myself looking forward to the holidays again. There's Christmas music on the stereo, the tree is up and decorated, lights are strung outside, shopping is almost done and I am not the least bit stressed about the whole thing.
Maybe it's just because I am feeling so much better than I have in ages, and have energy to celebrate with, but whatever it is I am enjoying myself. The little doll in the picture was made by my late friend Judi, using a chicken "wishbone" as an armature. She is a treasure I place on our tiny tree each year, along with several dozen handmade or antique toys.
Christmas has come to mean expensive gifts and frantic partying for many people. For many the expectation that they must provide (or experience) the "perfect" Christmas sucks the joy right out of the season. I have heard any number of people say they are stumped because they don't know what to do for Christmas that doesn't involve money and lots of it! What do you do when you have a small budget but still want to enjoy your Christmas? Here are some suggestions.
10 Ideas for a Simpler, More Meaningful Christmas
1. Avoid going into debt. Refuse to be pressured by society's expectations to overspend. Gifts don't need to be expensive. It's more important that they reflect the recipient's interests.
My in-laws were very well off, but one Christmas my father-in-law's present to my mother-in-law was five or six tiny porcelain animal figurines. Her friends were disdainful, since these cost only a few dollars. They told her a mink stole or new diamond would have been more appropriate to their economic and social status. But Mom was delighted with the little figurines and displayed them prominently the rest of her life. She loved animals but she said she loved more that George took the time to seek out something which he knew she would love.
2. Plan ahead. Instead of going crazy and trying to cram in activities and parties every night get the family together and talk about how you actually want to celebrate. Taking time to make cookies together, or tour the neighborhood light displays, gives time for meaningful conversation and family bonding.
3. Start celebrating early and include friends. A weekly "event", an evening of board games with another family, eating Christmas-themed snacks, attending a Christmas concert at a local church together, an evening with a rented Christmas movie and popcorn. Two or more families might get together to make tree ornaments to represent this year's memories. Each family makes an ornament not only for their own tree, but for their friend's as well. Then you might get together to help decorate each other's trees.
4. Talk about, and think about, the meaning of gifting at this time of the year. In the Christian tradition it echoes the gifts given by the Magi to the Christ Child, each of which had a deep spiritual significance. In Many European countries the "gifting" has much less importance, and is done on St. Nicholas' Day, early in December, leaving Christmas as a time for religious reflection.
December 25th is the day when the the cold, dark days of winter begin to lengthen in the northern hemisphere. Man has marked the winter solstice for thousands of years with festivals, gatherings, ritual and other celebrations. Not all these involve the exchange of gifts, but all encourage closer familial and community ties.
5. Draw names rather than everyone buying gifts for everyone in the family or group. Select a price range so that gifts are affordable for everyone.
6. Give children one spectacular gift they really want, rather than a dozen so-so ones. If need be parents, grandparents and/or aunts and uncles can go together to buy one expensive gift none of them might be able to buy alone. This is especially a good idea for teens, whose "wish list" may include expensive technology.
7. Give 25% of what you spend on gifts and activities for each other to local or global organizations which help those who have overwhelming need. An extended family might pool enough money at Christmas for an annual sponsorship of a needy child with Christian Children's Fund or The Plan. Shop at stores like 10,000 Villages where artists and craftspeople are paid a fair price for their work.
8. Give of yourself, not just “store-bought stuff” - Include the person with no family to share your holiday activities, babysit for a harried mother, invite a shut-in out for lunch, offer transportation to a disabled person or frail senior, gather food for the local food bank, or volunteer to help wrap gifts for the local toy drive.
8. Have a Christmas potluck and ask each person to come prepared with a "performance" piece. This might be a poem to recite, singing a song, a magic trick, playing an instrument, telling or reading a short story.
9. Wait to put gifts under the tree until Christmas Eve. Take turns opening gifts one at a time, so each can be appreciated and enjoyed by everyone, and the giver can be thanked.
10. After Christmas is over, recognize that many feel let-down and sad. Have a potluck, or a dessert night, and ask attendants to relate their favorite memory from this year and a past Christmas.
Monday, December 08, 2008
The Season is upon us.