Every year, and it seems, earlier every year, merchandisers and stores whip the public up into a fine shopping froth. Maybe calling that day after Thanksgiving in the US “Black Friday” is a good way to put it. When I hear of Black Friday (or any day for that matter) I think of a massacre or some other dire happening. And it seems to be the beginning of when people take leave of their senses and massacre their pocketbooks.
Christmas (or pick your other seasonal holiday that involves gift giving) used to be around Dec. 25th (the actual celebration) and involved a gift given to represent the gifts that the wise men brought at Jesus’s birth. But even for those of minimal or no Christian belief, there was Santa Claus who brought gifts to girls and boys. And there are many festivals of light (for that is really what Christmas and Jesus represent) that involve food and celebratory gifts.
But in North America this got distorted along the way. Now retailers see it as a way to make more more more and holiday decorations
go up sometimes before Hallowe’en, which is good for buying food and costumes but not for buying stuff. Thanksgiving in Canada happens before Hallowe’en and in the US it happens after, being the last big holiday (good for buying food) before the mega merchandise shopapalooza blowout greedfest.
I guess you can tell how I feel about having decorations shoved down my throat for two months and holiday carols ringing out from every store speaker from Dec. 1st or earlier. When I was a kid it was tradition to get into the holiday spirit some time around Dec. 12, two weeks before the big event. For some people whose culture involves Epiphany, New Year’s or Twelfth Night, it would start later and go to January 6th.
Now I have friends going gaga over Christmas by Dec. 1 at least. They think I’m a Scrooge but really I just get grumpy with hearing the same songs over and over for weeks on end and I’m sick of them by the time I should be enjoying them. The long, drawn out state of such great festive fun ends up making it like every day and just losing any aspects of being special and magical. There are also those people who have their tree down by Dec. 26th which seems just odd to me.
But since I do like the holidays (Kwanzaa, Christmas, Solstice, Yule, you name it) as a time of getting together with people and enjoying company, here are a few things to remember and a few to forget. First, forget that gifts matter. It’s how people treat you and that they care for you that matters most. It shouldn’t be shown in material objects and is a cheap facsimile for truly caring. I used to exchange Christmas stockings with a few friends. We would buy cheap, little dollar store items that weren’t much of anything but just fun, and wrap them individually. It was one of the best parts of Christmas when I was a kid. My friends and I would exchange these and unwrap the tiny gifts and enjoy each other’s company. If you have little money, this still encompasses the spirit without getting into a huge cost that bankrupts people for a year.
Don’t go elaborate on wrapping because it’s on the gift for only a short time and is a waste of trees. I started making cloth sacks that could be reused. I also save old calendars and use them to wrap gifts throughout the year. Or you can make the wrapping actually part of the gift. Reusing containers like baskets and tins is also a great way to wrap.
Make things. Whether it’s nuts, cookies, jams, liqueurs, jewelery, potholders, mitts or potted plants; these may take a bit more time but can save money. I’m one person who is quite happy to receive food or tiny little home-made items and appreciate the work that went into them. And as many of us grow older we have a ton of “stuff.” Also if you give something, give it with the caveat that if the person doesn’t like it they can either re-gift it or let you know and trade for something else. Some people feel uncomfortable doing this but I would rather a person enjoy their gift than hide it on a back shelf.
And don’t buy into having to buy buy buy. If you can’t afford it, you can’t afford it and many people can’t even though the government (in Canada) likes to say the recession is over. In Canada, Boxing Day happens on Dec. 26th but I have already seen signs for those “Boxing Day” sales for this last weekend. Sales all the time, really means the items are just regularly priced and not on sale.
The biggest thing to remember is that the holidays are about community: that means spending time enjoying being with someone, not fighting over all the things that bubble up in families. And it means charity, giving if you can and remembering that others have it worse. It’s funny how at this time people get stressed and get nastier (especially when shopping) than they do at other times. So, even though I won’t have a tree for a week or two yet, I hope I can remain stress free and hope to be making some gifts this year.