Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Confession

This time of year always brings out the cynic in me. I don't feel warm and fuzzy about Christmas music or Christmas decorations or Christmas sales, Christmas merchandise, Christmas travel, Christmas advertising, Christmas fabric, Christmas crowds, Christmas crafts or Christmas sweaters.

I know that is harsh, but it's how I feel.

I do like Christmas food. I like baking and sharing treats. I love Christmas cards and letters. I love spending time with Family. I love reflecting on the birth of the Savior. I know it's nice to have a variety, but give me these simple things plus "Angels We Have Heard on High" by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, "Silent Night," by my kids, and a few other Christ centered hymns and that's what I call a Merry Christmas.

Everything else I could do without. Everything else feels like a manipulation, a ploy, a scheme: like Madison Avenue's version of "Shock and Awe." (And this from a former advertising major!) It's the ever-present sentiment that you cannot possibly have an acceptable Christmas holiday without reaching some kind of unattainable, impractical, and Magazine-inspired standard.

I feel awful saying it--like a closet Scrooge who has just come out.

In my youth, I was not rebellious: I followed the rules and obeyed my parents. Now, however, I feel the need to rebel. Maybe I was saving it all up for now when I feel like saying, "NO! You can't make me buy something I don't need. No! The happiness of my family does NOT hinge on matching stocking holders and live boxwood garland. No! I don't have to have coordinated chargers and a table runner to make a lovely meal. No! I don't have to spend money to create memories."

(Phew! It felt kind of good getting that all out.)

This is not to say I don't purchase holiday themed items occasionally. I do. In fact, I have a lovely set of matching stocking holders. (This is how I know they don't bring happiness.) It's just that there is always more, more, more. And we are expected to buy it earlier and earlier and earlier in the year. The stores are loaded with useless things to buy because we "have" to buy things for other people. It's this tradition, so you have to do it. And gifts have become an obligation. An obligation is not a gift.

(Don't worry. My kids have plenty of presents to open on Christmas morning.)

When I try to incorporate too many commercially fabricated traditions into my Christmas season, I just end up feeling stress, frustration, fatigue, and sometimes even anger. Not what I want to feel as I celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

I have so far to go when it comes to personally celebrating the true reason for Christmas and teaching my children about our Savior and his infinite love for us. I can serve more, study more, love more. I can think about those in need in March or August, and not just December. I've got work to do. Personally, I don't feel like complicating it with lots of trappings. Or Chia Heads and Snuggies for that matter.

So, forgive me as I "bah-humbug" the 24 hour a day Christmas music radio station and the Christmas aisles at Target. Just ignore me as I solemnly pledge to not step foot in the mall until March. I'm just feeling a little bit under attack these days and need to lay low for a while.

And besides, I've decided I'm not a very good consumer. Which, as it turns out, was what this entire blog post was going to be about before I got sidetracked.

Maybe tomorrow I'll tell you why I should just stop trying to buy things.


Allyson said...

Ok, so does this mean you don't want me to send you anymore awesome deals on toys???

Emily Laing said...

Last year, I really just couldn't get into Christmas. ThIs year, I'm making everything to make the gift giving process more personal. We decided to not have a bunch of Christmases with tons of family. It's too expensive and really not focused on the whole point of Christmas. I don't decorate extensively and no lights are going to adorn eves. I just don't get it. I should since I am an interior designer. Just sounds like work to me. More to clean and less time doing the fun stuff like making fudge with your kids.

shiguy4076 said...

Amen. I hate x-mas! Hate it. The only thing I enjoy is watching the delight in my childrens faces opening presents and going for drives and looking for lights, and spending time with my family.
I was appalled when x-mas stuff was out in september.
I threatened to boycott it this year.
I say bah-humbug too.!

Anna said...

That's really funny because today I was in a store (for maybe the first time in a month!) walking by the Christmas aisles and thinking how fun it would be if I just had some money and could buy tons and tons of Christmas decorations and sweaters and pajamas and socks and lights... so I guess it's not so bad not having any money after all.

Erika said...

I'm excited for Christmas to do things with family and make it magical for my kids, like everyone else said, but have to agree with you that society has gone way too overboard on all the "stuff". And like you said, I don't need it, my kids don't need it, nobody needs all these required gifts! I was adjusting my list yesterday and feeling really annoyed that I have to get certain people presents just because they always get us one. I am feeling like everyone feels obligated because that's just what you do on Christmas. I agree that we should be doing it throughout the year. Ryan and I made a suggestion to his family that we do white elephants instead of the adults drawing names and buying gifts. So we have for the past two years and it's been a blast--much more fun than opening store bought gifts. Now we just need to recommend that we do that with the kids! His family is into gifts but I really want to change that. The more I think about it, the more it frustrates me. None of us have any money anyway, so why are we doing all these gifts? Thanks for confessing. You always explain things so well--far better than I ever could!

Erika said...

Oh, and Emily, I love that you're making your gifts. I think that when we feel we need to or want to give someone a gift, that is the way to do it. So meaningful and from the heart. Now I just need to come up with some homemade ideas....please feel free to post your ideas as I could use some! Ü

Marah said...

Amen! Can we get rid of the whole Christmas tree thing? It takes an entire day to load everyone up in the car, drive around the countryside, patrol the entire Christmas tree farm that we finally stop at, drag a tree back to the car, tie it on the roof, drag it in the house, make it stand perfectly vertically, drape lights, hang ornaments, try to remember to water the thing at least daily, and vacuum needles. I won't even go into getting rid of the thing.

I was surprised to see a Christmas tree in a living room window last week! And Christmas lights outside a different house! Christmas season is slowly creeping into Thanksgiving territory.

I do like Christmas music and baking (and being able to give it away so I don't eat it). I'm still trying to come to terms with gift-giving.

Marah said...

And I wish I had time to make stuff. Good for you, Emily.

Heather said...

Well, I must say that although I'm disappointed to hear that you won't be in the throngs (including me) on the day after Thanksgiving, I understand the frustration of how commercial Christmas has become. I don't like that it shows up in the stores by early September, for sure, but at the same time, I start to get a little thrill at this point in the year, when Thanksgiving is just a week away (a holiday I also enjoy), and I know I can start playing Christmas music in just over a week! :)
(As you probably know by now, I am one who LOVES the 24-hour-a-day Christmas music...playing my first few CDs is a joy that I look forward to starting in early fall.) :) I refrain up until now, but I MIGHT start in on the music here & there by next Tuesday or Wednesday...

As far as the focus on material gifts, I agree, as the Reason for the Season is NOT a present, but His Presence. :) (We heard that at church last year during the Christmas season, and it stuck with me.) We can also give our own "presence" to one another.

I also, though, find a lot of joy in picking out just the right gift for a loved one or friend, and I don't think there is anything wrong with that.

Anyway, sorry this was such a long post, but I felt the need to state some of my own opinions, too.

(And sorry, but I love picking out, cutting down, and decorating the tree!)