Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Year We Were Excused From Christmas

A lot of people out there recently have lost their jobs and/or financial security or know someone close to them who has. And I know many of us are worried about it happening to us. I guess that's why, judging from the dismal retail reports, many people cut back their holiday spending this year. I know it is small consolation to anyone who has recently lost their job or is struggling to make ends meet, but I do wonder whether there isn't a lot of good that can come out of the current economic mess. (At least for the time being, I am still fortunate enough to be employed, so I realize it is still relatively easy for me to say.)

At any rate, for the last five years or so, I have spent Christmas with my boyfriend's family during which time I exchanged gifts with his Dad, three siblings, and a varying number of their significant others. I then typically visited my family where I exchanged gifts with my sister, her husband and my parents. In the last few years, I have gained two nephews and my boyfriend has gained one. While buying presents for this number of people was not exactly an economic hardship for me and I derive (as I assume many people do) a certain pleasure from gift-giving, the task had become daunting. Also, I have to say that I was troubled by what seemed to me to be excessive waste in terms of time, effort and money spent in buying all of these material objects. I was often left with an uneasy feeling after all the presents were unwrapped and we were left with all this STUFF, most of which we didn't need and was frankly a drag to have to figure out how to carry home.

This year, something in the air made my boyfriend's family decide to do a "secret santa" instead of the traditional exchange of gifts. Inspired by this development, I informed my family that I was liberating myself from the tyranny of the Holidays this year and that they should not buy or expect to receive gifts from me (except in the case of my nephews). I ended up buying a few extra gifts anyway, but these were more in the nature of tokens made with no sense of obligation or expectation of receiving anything in return. The result: I didn't spend the days leading up to Xmas in crowded stores stressing out about getting the right gifts for everyone and running myself ragged. I stressed out about other things instead. My boyfriend spent more time with his siblings. I had only a small bag of stocking stuffers to carry home and enough room in my closet to put them all. I spent time with my family and it felt nice just to visit. (Although I still wish my that my older nephew had been more excited over the spectacular pop-up book I gave him (Winter's Tale by Robert Sabuda)!).

Anyway, I don't know what will happen next year, but this year, it felt more like Christmas to me than ever. We went back to the basics - spending time with family, relaxing and making the little ones happy. I was even able to maintain my anxiety in check as I sat back and watched the nephews open their presents, play with their toys and begin accumulating all this stuff that they don't really need.

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