The following quote is from Vagabond, a blog by my friend Lynz, who often serves as the voice of my conscience when it comes to consumerism and environmentalism. What she had to say about Christmas resonated with me:
This year, we made candles and cookies, and only bought a few secondhand books, and a couple of new things for our Anja, pretty much. I bought John some custom-made pajama pants (long enough, even!) and he bought me a pair of fingerless, fair-trade alpaca gloves :)
Somehow, I didn't feel very Christmassy this year. I'm hoping that it's not directly tied to not going out and spending money and buying for people, but am afraid that it just might be. I'm also feeling awfully cynical and mean about the amount of stuff that people give to each other (and I'll admit that part of it is jealousy.) But part of it is also, who needs so much stuff? What kid needs so many toys that they are overwhelmed opening them all, and don't have space to store them? What is WRONG with our society?! /sigh
When I was younger, the gifts exchanged by my family were often handmade and were usually very simple. I'm hoping that as Lynz's family continues their new traditions, they start to feel more fulfilling as they live the famous Dr. Seuss line, "Christmas isn't something that comes from a store." In my own family, I'm hoping to return to my roots. We did a LOT of online and mall shopping this year, and while some small part of me likes strolling through a mall listening to Christmas music, most of me doesn't like feeling like I have to buy, buy, buy my way through the season.
Sometimes when I talk about this, naysayers will point out how time-consuming a homemade Christmas can be. To them I say, THAT'S THE POINT. If I'm not willing to spend time on a gift for somebody, perhaps we don't have a close enough relationship to merit a gift exchange at all. If I can't spend some time on our family traditions, where is my time being spent, exactly? Convenience has a price, and I'm not just referring to dollars and cents.
Some things I'm hoping to do/see in future Christmasses here:
- Get back to sending Christmas cards, preferably handmade or at least creatively designed by myself
- Place more importance on keeping annual traditions like the chocolate house, which didn't get made this year
- Reduce chicken-with-head-cut-off running around so that my family enjoys our time together instead of feeling like we have to pack stuff in to every moment.
- Focus on simplifying gift-giving and making it more personal. Fewer gifts with more meaning. Dan and I were working on this before and slipped this year, and need to get back to a focus on fewer material gifts and more thoughtful exchanges that say "I really know and love you" rather than "I really went crazy at the Black Friday sales."
- Speaking of Black Friday, I need somebody to remind me to observe Buy Nothing Day.
- And speaking of buying nothing, we'd like to challenge ourselves to be more creative and either make gifts ourselves or find locally made gifts.
- Encouraging those who exchange gifts with us to give fewer, more personal gifts, including non-"thing" gifts if possible. We have as many toy trucks and games as we need, and then some. Most movies get watched once, books read once, then they take up space. We have enough clothing for twice or thrice as many bodies as we have. What we don't have? Griff has never gone camping or fishing. We all love seeing family photos and movies and a gift related to that would be cherished. We hope that our families will enjoy our attempts to be creative and caring and will do the same in return.
- Actually make that cloth gift wrap that I had planned to make this year!
In short, we're hoping to get ourselves back on course with the focus on gifts and traditions that are personal, loving, ecologically sound, and as nonmaterialistic as possible.
Hey Lynz, send your candle ideas! I'm suddenly feeling all inspired and wanting to plan ahead for next year!