"Once we have completely eradicated our delusions it will be utterly impossible for us to experience unpeaceful states of mind." Geshe Kelsang Gyatso

Sunday, December 1, 2013

I don't like Christmas.

Please don't assume I'm sour, when I tell you that I don't particularly like Christmas. Please instead, just ask me, why?

When you ask me why, I will respond by asking you: "when you think of Christmas, what comes to mind?" Chances are, you will think of presents, excessive spending, plenty of sugar, crowded malls…. see where I'm going here? 

When I was growing up, my siblings and I were all encouraged to make lists of presents that we wished for from Santa. As a list lover by nature, I was thrilled with this task and wrote out detailed pages and pages worth of items that I wanted to find wrapped up under my Christmas tree, for my opening pleasure come Christmas day. I am certainly embarrassed as I think about this next sentence… I always felt slightly dissappointed when 'present unwrapping time' was finished, and I didn't receive absolutely everything on my list. Wow, I sound like a spoiled brat and for that I feel sick to my stomach. I am so grateful that I have grown up and out of this craze; however I do want to think about the bigger picture here. Consumerism certainly got the best of my little mind and for that I also feel sorry for the children everywhere, because the majority don't know any better but to assume that Christmas day joy is heavily dependent on receiving all of these items on their wish list for Santa. Do most children get so caught up in the present aspect of Christmas, that they generally overlook all of the other factors involved? Is putting such a heavy emphasis on the jolly man in red, the reason to blame? 

As I got older, I began to think about not only receiving, but also about purchasing gifts for others, which led me to think about the chaotic haze people speak of feeling this time of year and the financial burden of this gift giving madness. How many people go into debt simply to buy gifts for others? I know that a lot of parents do. In fact, "Consumer counselling agencies see a 25 percent increase in the number of people seeking help in January and February, and most of that traffic is propelled to their doors by holiday bills that haunt consumers like the ghost of Christmas past". 
Yikes, is it really worth it? I would assume (because I cannot relate) that parents feel an obligation to buy presents for their children, as they do not want their children feeling like they missed out, especially compared to their peers. Is it really worth going into debt over? Some parents focus on buying practical items for their children, justifying the purchase by thinking that the gifts are items that their children really need. But do they really, really NEED these items? Again, thinking about "stuff", how much is just too much? As someone who is fascinated by the marketing industry in general, and is in "the business" of promoting business, I like to be the "devil's advocate" on occasion and ask consumers to question "why" they shop, and whether or not they realize that they cast a vote with every dollar spent. So who are you voting for?

This year, I wrote the following quick email to my family outlining my view on wish lists and what I would like to receive for Christmas. 
Hello, my darling siblings and their significant others! I hope this email finds you well. I had initially simply deleted this email, with no intention of replying, as I believe that wish lists are nonsense, which mom is quite aware of (hence the reference to "some of you"… that would be me), however I've decided that I DO actually want to have my "wishes" known: I wish… for us to focus more on giving gifts that are either crafted, made or assembled on our own and/or for gifts to be purchased from small to medium sized businesses in our local communities. I believe that each one of you have amazing talents and are so creative, that anything made by you, is what I am wishing for! In my opinion, there is no such thing as the right gift, and the notion of "need" is disconcerting, for if there was something that you truly needed, I would hope that you would already have it, read: clothing, shelter, food.  
As a family, for the last two years we have opted to do a secret santa. This means that you randomly choose one person to buy for, which takes all of the awkwardness out of deciphering which specific people you are and are not going to buy for. We also set a price point, which also reduces some decision-making properties. I like this concept, as you are still receiving a present to open on Christmas day (or eve, depending on family traditions) however, it's not overboard for the purchaser and not another wasted gift, just for the sake of buying. I think that the secret santa game is a great stepping stone, into perhaps "ixnay-ing" gift giving at Christmas altogether. I think that generosity throughout the year would be ideal; if you see something that someone would get joy out of -- give it to them then and there! Why wait for Christmas? I think gifts should be given because someone has inspired you and/or you would like to give them something as a way of saying thank-you, or if you are in a position to help someone when you notice they need something, then do it as a gift, just because you can. 

Okay, to be truthful, I may have only said that I don't like Christmas for shock value. I like the fact that Christmas usually brings out the very best in people with regards to community spirit and kindness, values that I appreciate very much. I do like being reminded of thinking of others when I am shopping, and not only about myself. I love the smells of cinnamon, apple spice, gingerbread and pine trees that are abundant during the holiday season. I like that Christmas is usually the only time of year that my whole family gets together. On that note, this year will only be the second time in my life, that my three siblings and I will not be together at Christmas time, which is disheartening and definitely takes away from my joy for the season. I certainly like that the holiday usually allows for allotted time off work, focusing more on playing, and less on working. The holiday season brings plenty of social events, which is again, great for community spirit. 

So, of course there are plenty of Christmas pros to oppose the cons, however I think that more often than not, the cons that I speak of, trump the pros, which in my opinion is just too bad. If you have food, shelter and clothes, and are simply buying presents for people just to have lumps under your Christmas tree (in which you probably spent over $100 worth of decorations this year), ask yourself why? If you do not truly need anything, have you thought of asking your loved ones to make a donation to someone who does, on your behalf? If you are giving gifts, have you thought about making them with your own two hands? What else could you do this Christmas season to boost the pros and negate the cons?

Here is a list of activities to consider doing this holiday season, taking the focus away from the shopping components and putting it more on the social side!

- Make your own Christmas cards to mail or hand deliver to your friends and family. Maybe even have a few friends over and make it a group activity!

- Gather up any toys, warm clothes and household items that you do not use and donate them to a local shelter

- Make time for crafts! Have a whole day of crafting; paper snowflakes, a gingerbread house, handmade tree ornaments, festive wreaths, an "ugly" christmas sweater etc. Get on Pinterest, and get INSPIRED!

- Bake sugar cookies, gingerbread cookies, candy cane cookies, hot chocolate spice cookies…

- Go ice skating, skiing and tobogganing

- Make homemade hot chocolate, wear some festive pyjamas and watch a christmas movie

- Carry around chocolate coins, Hershey's hugs and kisses, and give them out to people you see on the street!

- Take a family portrait

- Organize a group of carollers and ACTUALLY go door to door singing! I have to admit, I think this would be pretty rad but I'm not sure if I'd have enough confidence to pull it off… although, if someone showed up at my door with intentions of singing their heart out, I'd be quite pleased to listen! Have you ever gone door to door carolling? Would you like to??