… is to keep things simple.
Christmas is waaaaay out of control.
I ventured into a shopping centre today for non-Christmas items and even though it is only the 1st of December and it was 9am the shops were packed and people were charging about all over the place looking for their perfect Christmas gift. The air was tingling with stress and excitement (but mostly stress). Every year I cringe when the Christmas madness begins, and of course the Christmas season starts in September and like total suckers we get caught up in the hype.
I really resent the stress that I feel every year at Christmas. Having to buy or make presents for people takes time and money and for me, both of those are in short supply to begin with. I have always made a point of giving our children only one gift each, and two years ago I vowed not to buy any more toys (and I have stuck to it!). I just cannot enjoy Christmas with the stress that comes with having to think of presents: finding either the money and time to buy them or the materials and time to make them is equally stressful when everyone is trying to go shopping at once, catch up with each other at lunches, dinners and parties. It is a mad time of year and for a good reason it is called the silly season. Why would I want to contribute to it by running about trying to get things crossed off my Christmas list? I am busy at the best of times with three children. I just don’t feel inclined to give myself any extra stress by stretching myself further.
I cannot give every person I know a present at Christmas. I certainly can’t afford to and neither do I want to. Last year I made family members a gift each (they all got cloth bags) but this year I don’t think I’ll even be able to manage that. My time is precious to me, so the very act of making and giving a present is a gift in itself that I would assume people would appreciate.
Christmas is NOT about presents or hype or Santa. Christmas began with the miracle birth of a special baby. That is what we are celebrating: the gift of family and love and hope and the blessings we HAVE (not the blessings we WANT). So if I give a gift because I feel obliged to, that gift is not doing anyone any favours, and neither does it make me feel good. I could give gift cards to organisations that use the money for people who need basic things for everyday living, and at the moment that appears to be my best option – because NOT giving gifts and just sending my heart-felt blessing doesn’t seem to be an option.
Now don’t get me wrong: I am not a Scrooge. I am not being stingy with my time and money. I LOVE Christmas! I love Christmas for the stories. I can just drink in all the beautiful Christmas stories! I love it for the community celebrations, for the daggy christmas lights on people’s houses, for the carols, for the fun in decorating and transforming our house into a sparkling wonderland. I love it for the magic and wonder of Father Christmas (not Santa!) that never leaves me. I love it for the opportunity to gather with loved ones and share food and enjoy relaxing together. That is wonderful enough!
I love Christmas for the sentiment of gift-giving but the sentiment rapidly tranforms into resentment when it is a week before Christmas and I still haven’t found or made a present for all my special people. Some years have passed when I’ve gone to bed on Christmas night in absolute relief that it is all over for another year. Now that just isn’t fun! Why can’t we just enjoy the day together without so many expectations?
Last year we got it right: our Christmas was fabulous: a no fuss breakfast at the beach followed by a relaxed and minimalist present opening at home … and an afternoon nap.
So all I want for Christmas is the memory of an extraordinarily joyful day … relaxed and happy and simple.