Boy, have I been neglectful! I haven't written anything in my blog since, well, April. I thought, since I have something on my mind, and I'm playing security guard while Ada attempts to nap assistance-free, I'll whip something up!
SO, my topic of choice is something that's really been weighing on me for the last couple years. It's Christmas, and more specifically, gift giving. Let me start by saying that I realize this might not be a popular topic with some, and some more might find it slightly offensive. Nonetheless, I feel some things should be said and should be addressed. I hope not to rub anyone the wrong way!
I remember Christmastime of my childhood very fondly. I think it was one of the few times I can remember when my family moved and interacted as unit. Some Christmas Eves were spent at my Grandma Hindersheid's house, where we all got to see our cousins and relatives on my dad's side. It was a fun tradition, and I can honestly say that I'm happily indifferent to the gifts that were exchanged--the main focus was togetherness. It was the same with the Smith side of the family, who all journeyed to be together on Christmas Day. I can't remember a single gift I received that trumps my memories of playing, eating and laughing together.
Fastforward 10-20 years later, I'm now creating traditions and memories with my own family. There are a few things we do differently. We go to church (I apparently made that impossible for my mom when I was a kid), we don't play up Santa too much, and we (ok, Luke) don't feel greatly obligated to attend every family gathering we're invited to. He prefers to focus on our own, immediate family. I can respect that, I'm just maybe a little scared to stray away from our extended family gettogethers.
In becoming the main purchasor of Christmas gifts, the season of giving has morphed slightly into something surprising for me. What I'm feeling sometimes instead of happy, lovey feelings while shopping, is obligation, dread, and an empty wallet. It's not that way when buying for EVERYONE, some people are a joy to buy for. But every year, there are a couple of people on my list who leave me scratching my head. I know that it's my own fault for feeling like I HAVE to get something for those people, but it can be an awkward moment at a gathering when they've gotten something for you (which may or may not make any sense to give you in the first place) and you haven't gotten something for them.
In my observation, the presence of these people on your Christmas list often results in the purchase of an odd or generic gift. The gift itself doesn't likely hold any sentimental or thoughtful qualities, but it does say, "I love you enough to have spent $17.32 on you this year."
I know that if I'm going to irritate anyone, it's here.
Why on earth are we getting these kinds of gifts for people? What purpose does it serve? Did they really need that "thing?" Did they want to hug you afterward? Did they feel more loved because you thought so long and hard about what to give them? Not likely, people! You got them a basket of cheese and crackers and hard salami (ok, I aknowledge that for some people, like my husband, they WOULD consider this a good gift)!
Buying or making a Christmas gift should be a willing, joyful act. But in this culture of materialism, instead it can become about taking on seasonal debt.
I sent an email last year and I think the year before, with a couple of suggestions for each of the people in our family. In no way whatsoever did I expect any of us to receive a gift, and I was sure to include that thought in the email. I felt a little conflicted sending the email in the first place, since it could be taken that way. My intentions were good--I was simply trying to provide some clutter-free gift ideas that would be cherished, valued, and purposeful in our cozy little house. (Believe me, we can only handle so many gimmicky, million-pieced toys in our house.) I suggested a membership to the Children's Museum, tickets to the movie theater, a gift certificate to the bowling alley, etc.
Anyway, I recently was forwarded an email where the main gist was "stop supporting China's production and profit from imported goods! Buy local! Support your own community's businesses!" And I agree! I especially liked that many of the gift suggestions (ie hire a maid, pay to have a car detailed, etc.) were clutter-free gifts. Now, THIS email was well received. I find myself scratching my head a little bit. What was so different in the motive behind the China-free Christmas and my junk-free ideas?
Every year I hear people say, "we won't have as much money this year, with the economy being bad and all, " and "I have to get a gift for this person, but I have NO idea what to get," or more importantly, "it's hard to teach my kids about the true meaning of Christmas when we're surrounded by tons of meaningless STUFF."
Gift giving can be absolutely wonderful. When you've gotten something for someone you love who truly loves and appreciates your thoughtfulness and your gift--that's priceless. It could be as simple as a bottle of wine or a box of Cheeze-its (a personal favorite of mine). It could be lavish, like gift certificate for a massage or a new gun.
But dare I say, that if you're in the section of Walmart where they sell the pre-made gift baskets of cheese and salami, Christmas themed teddy bears (you know those things BREED, don't you?), and nasty tasting boxes of chocolates, you're in the wrong place. Walk away as fast as possible.