*** Christmas Eve 2011 -- I've noticed a LOT of traffic on this particular posting, with the majority of the hits coming from Britain. If you're visiting this posting, can you leave a comment and let me know where you saw the link? Thank you....okay...now back to Christmas 2010.
Get set for the most politically incorrect posting of the year!
I don't "do" Christmas. Hubby (who channels the Ghost of Christmas Present!) thinks I am a Grinch, and a Scrooge. I haven't "done" Christmas for the last four years, each year getting more and more comfortable with my decision to abandon it.
Now I'm not a Christmas HATER - I have lots of sweet memories from childhood Christmasses, and I'm still charmed by Hubby's childlike eagerness and holiday spirit. What I hate is that Christmas has become a long list of obligations, and many of them are commonly loathesome to lots and lots of people.
No, the list of reasons I've decided to give up celebrating has become longer and longer each year, bolstering my commitment to remain tinsel free in the future. I'm not sharing this list because I think EVERYONE should renounce the festive season, just perhaps to highlight a few areas that could cause you Claus pause, and challenge you to think about some of your traditions.
1 - I hate forced friendliness. Okay - I'm not kidding here. Twice already this year I've had people admit to me that they take medication, or medicate themselves with alcohol in order to deal with complicated family dynamics. I recently had a chat with someone who was outraged that a particular family member was not attending a holiday gathering, even though she ordinarily can't stand this person. What? Really??
Why do people do this to themselves? Are they expecting some kind of Christmas Miracle in their stocking this is going to erase years of horrible communication, painful memories, and hurt feelings? Is grinning and bearing it what Christmas is about?
2 - I hate gifts. Okay, maybe that's exagerating. Gifts make me uncomfortable. I loved the fudge and date squares in the cute cookie jar that my friend Lorraine left for my family (although, really? coulda been more of your famous date squares Lorraine!). It makes me smile when I imagine the fun and laughter my mom and sister shared as they cooked up the jars of home-preserves and creatively packed into beautiful gift baskets covered in colourful cellophane, topped with a pretty handcrafted tag. I can tell these gifts were a pleasure for the givers to give, and so it's a pleasure for me to receive.
Anything else makes me really uncomfortable. "It's the thought that counts" is bull$#*! With plenty of gifts, it's clear that not a lot of thought went into it. It isn't easy for me to pretend that I'm really excited by the packages of crap that are going to the thrift store come Boxing Day. And yes, partly it's because I'm disappointed, but the greater piece is that it embarrasses me that I may be hurting the feelings of the giver, because I can't fake surprise and gratitude. On the other hand, I suspect that the giver is just thinking "well, that's another one off my list" because he or she feels an obligation to give a gift. And that just makes me sad.
3. I hate Christmas plays. No, not the cute little school concerts, but all the draaaaaaaaaama that plays out over the Twelve Days of Christmas.
Now since this is a confessional, I gotta confess a good deal of schadenfreude on my part - this is why we like reality TV so much in our culture. I enjoy a little gossip about who lost their marbles, who ruined dinner, who stormed out, who got drunk.
But upon reflection, I'm ashamed that I listened to the stories, I'm ashamed that I badly want to get the other side of the story, and I'm really sad that bad things happened, and these incidents are going to forever colour what is supposed to be a joyful time of the year, for many years to come.
4. Christmas offends my sensibilities. Gross consumerism and materialism (that's a given). I don't have to expand on this, do I? Okay, I will.
Especially since I've been working so closely with poor people in the last few months, and particularly at the food bank these past two weeks, I've become keenly aware that nothing contributes so much to the loss of dignity for the poor than the awareness that they can't provide the kind of Christmas for their families that our culture expects. Nothing draws a deeper line between the "haves" and "have nots" than the decision to pay the rent or buy the kids a few gifts. At the risk of sounding cliché or trite, it's not fair that Christmas is a time of reckoning for children. It breaks my heart that this is the precise time when children are most likely to recognize that they have less, ARE LESS (when you consider the average outcomes for kids who grow up in poverty).
And while I'm not what you would call a passionate environmentalist, I do think we should try to be as kind to the planet as we can. A lot of resources, energy, and waste tallies up this time of year. Will I ever use any of the calendars that I get this time of year from every bank, politician, pharmacy, and realtor? Nope - into the recycling box.
Twice this year I have already been asked about what I thought was appropriate to tip day care providers, so the giver didn't seem "cheap". To me, this kind of tipping is paradoxical: this gift is so you will hold me in esteem, and guarantee future good service, NOT because I want to demonstrate my gratefulness for your fine work and dedication. Just this morning I received a "tipping etiquette tips" article in my email. Dollar amounts were stated ($15 for the newspaper carrier) with clarity, but at the end of the list a suggestion that one shouldn't break one's budget:
"Although there are a lot of grey areas when it comes to holiday tipping, experts all seem to agree on one thing: It shouldn’t break the bank. If you have to go into debt to tip this year, stop. Pull out a stash of stationary, and get writing instead. You can even allude to the fact that you were, say, out of work most of the year, says Blais Comeau. “Respect your budget. That’s the important thing,” she says."
OHHHHHHH! THAT'S the important thing! Thanks for clearing that up.
But just before you click the comment button to tell me what a Scrooge I am, there are still some things I do like about Christmas.
1. I'm a sucker for Christmas lights. I can't drive down night-time holiday streets without rubber-necking to-and-fro to take in all the sparkling and glittering. I love me a Griswold house!
2. Turkey and cranberry sauce. We just don't get that enough during the year. I'm glad we save up all that specialness for holidays.
3. Christmas carols. Not hokey Christmas songs, but beautiful traditional choral arrangements. Or give me Mahalia Jackson singing "Oh Holy Night" - when she gets to the "fall on your knees" part, I get goosebumps. I like to sing Christmas carols too, but try not to get caught doing it, lest I be accused of having holiday spirit.
4. Snow. Combined with those twinkly coloured lights? Can it get any better?
5. Black & White holiday movie classics. You simply can't see "It's a Wonderful Life" too many times. And I adore any version of "A Christmas Carol". Those happy endings are eternally satisfying.
6. Charity. People come together and do great things at Christmas.
God bless us, every one!