Wednesday, November 25, 2009

decking the halls

Some of us might not be christians but you can be assured that if you suggest skipping the commercialism of the season by not giving Christmas presents this year then you’ll be about as popular as a foreskin at a synagogue. If you really want to shit people off, give them an Oxfam unwrapped voucher instead. You might feel a little smug that your socialist friend’s had a piglet donated to some far flung village in their name but they’d really have preferred a bottle of wine.

But Christmas is all about the kids, isn’t it? Even if you’ve pared the extended family’s adult gift list back and gone in for a kris kringle, it’s still likely that you have to buy every child a present as well. As one friend remarked recently, “…even if the “children” are now in their 20s”.

Why is it that we reinforce the notion that Christmas is about buying as much plastic crap for small kids that they either break or forget about them the next day? Or because you’ve been a bad aunt and not kept up to date with the trends you’ve given them something they already have or it is so 2008 and they don’t want it any more.

As I don’t have children, I feel I am not allowed to voice my thoughts on the season. So thank the goddess for this blog!

So you are a non-church-going family but do the full-blown Christmas thing. There’s an advent calendar for each of the kiddies but that’s about the chocolate not the religious message, right? They are learning carols about “Christ the saviour” but it’s ok that’s just tradition. Then we throw capitalism into the mix and have to buy them a pile of presents. Not just one or two but a truck load of “stocking fillers” because you love them, right? What messages do you really think you are teaching them?

The festive season is a great time of year to raise a little consciousness. I recently met a family that have a strict policy around gift giving – everything must be homemade. That’s right, they have these kids who are turning into well-adjusted teenagers who’ve grown up without the latest dolls, toys or gadgets. They make their own cards, sew, draw, paint and re-fashion recycled items. They’ve learnt to have Christmas without the angst of last minute shopping and draining the piggy bank. The parents nurture their own creativity along with their children's’. Spending more time together and less money – now that’s a Christmas equation worth exploring.

I’ve watched so many friends with young families get into debt at the end of every year, just so they can give their children a swag of gifts. But what is the real cost of debt? Working more hours, feeling stressed and ultimately being less “present”, distracted by the growing credit card bills?

Look I’m just a jaded old barren bitch, what do I know? But I do remember my own childhood. I wanted more time with my workaholic dad. I wanted my mum to not have to apologise for his absence or his over worked, cranky moods. I wanted more barbecues on the beach or Sunday afternoons fishing together on the jetty. My favourite holiday was the one where we all went camping instead of going to a motel.

I can’t remember a single “stocking filler” I was given in my childhood but I do remember the little bowl of cherries more than the bowl of sweets, that were beside my bed “from Santa” and have deep affection for the fruit for life.

Sure we had a stack of presents but there is only one I remember. A bike. A much wanted and didn’t think I’d get one – bike. For a kid not keen on sport a bike taught me that being active was fun. The bike was never forgotten by Easter.

What do you remember about childhood Christmases? How do you teach kids about the season (look I’m figuring if you read this you are not a died in the wool christian)? What are you sick of compromising? What would you like to change?

cross-posted on deliberately barren

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Blogger Pavlov's Cat said...

I just wrote a big rant about my sister and her micro-controlling ways, about Christmas as about much else, and then deleted it. But I feel much better, so thank you.

10:08 am  
Blogger Mindy said...

The "where are we spending Xmas this year"? Well it was supposed to be with my family, but his family bitched and moaned so much we are spending it with them. Because we haven't spent a Christmas together for so long apparently. Well, hubs and I have been married for 12 or so years and have our shit sorted, so why can't the couple who married 2 years ago get theirs together? Oh that's right, he's the first born all must bow to his wishes. Except that he couldn't give a toss, and it's really about what you want isn't it. So that's what we are doing. Next year we are staying home and if you don't want to visit, that's just fine. No really it's good. Then the year after that we will be at my brother's place. Yep, two years without you. But you got what you wanted so you can't complain. Not that it's going to stop you but I just won't listen. It's my Christmas present to myself. The biggest kicker is that none of this side of the family, us included, are Christian. The MIL might go to midnight mass, but everyone else either doesn't bother or is actively atheist.

Thank goodness my Mum is an Xtian and said that they had been wanting to spend time doing Xmas lunch for people who had no one to spend it with and this was a great opportunity.

Sorry. I'll stop now.

10:27 am  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

I think I might change the title of the post to "Opening the yuletide can of worms".

How glorious that we aren't alone in this. Pav, so pleased it gave you a little relief.

Mindy - I am banned (yes banned) from writing anything remotely about my partner's family in this blog - all I can say is you have my deepest sympathies.

11:20 am  
Blogger Ed Charles said...

I looking forward to having a non Christmas this year rather than spend it with quasi christian capatalists. I just have to resist buying anyone special a present.

11:20 am  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

Ed I love not having Christmas. Unfortunately, in the last few years every year seems to be "maybe their last christmas" for one or both of my parents so I've had to schlep back across the Tasman.

I've had some lovely Dec 25th's sleeping in, listening to David Bridie's xmas show on RRR, reading in the back yard and eating non-festive food - an omelette, a glass of me that is utter bliss!

Can't wait til I can do it again.

8:03 am  
Blogger Melba said...

I agree. When Christmas comes around I turn into a nasty Scrooge-type who wants to avoid crowds, shopping centres and events go bah humbug at every turn.

12:17 pm  
Blogger Zoe said...

Well, I'm guilty of present-buying. We have a tree (because it smells nice) but with no Christian iconography on it. And in my extended family, gifts for children stop when they leave school/turn 18.

Instead of rotating families, we rotate the "call" of where to go. This year it's Owy's call and he's chosen to stay in Canberra and have Christmas with my family. This may have something to do with the stand-up screaming match Christmas at his family's house last year involved ;)

12:33 pm  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

Aww not trying to make anyone feel guilty for buying presents. Presents are nice at any time of the year. More the mindless got to get something even if its a pile of crap kinda of consumerism that the season feeds.

12:38 pm  
Blogger BwcaBrownie said...

Learning something everyday from blogging, and today I guugled Thanksgiving history.
Well! who'd have thunk that way way back then, Abraham Lincoln adjusted the holiday away from Christmas because it disturbed retail trading.

200 years later and no change.
Christmas Retail.

and the 'plastic crap' you despise is possibly less offensive than the really costly items that media informs young minds they could should would expect.

Frankincense and myrrh, people!
or not.
Christianity is the reX, ah, cult with gifts right?

6:12 pm  
Blogger BwcaBrownie said...

PS last year my richest friend - the one with 4 houses and a wretchedly excessive lifestyle in every way - overflowing wheelie bins, massive petrol consumption, food wasted beyond belief, bought everybody a goat or a well in Somalia or something, and lectured me on the need to be charitable.

She was holidaying in paris when worldvision sent the birthday card she was supposed to post back for her orphan ... so that was a charity fail too

6:17 pm  

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