However, Christmas, like every other American holiday, promotes heavy spending and conspicuous consumption (our pocketbooks and our bellies). We give ourselves permission to open wide our bank accounts, eat like pigs, and drink like fish. Unfortunately I think that this is where unhappiness manifests for many people. Some people spend more than they have buying gifts because it is “the thing to do.” Since many children believe that Santa Claus is going to bring them a huge bag of presents, parents go out and spend a huge amount of money to fill the space around the Christmas tree.
Now I know that I am beginning to sound like a major pessimist, but hear me out. Most people give to their children, family, and friends all year around. That phone call, that heavy work load so that mouths can be fed and lights can stay on, emotional support, etc. I think that parents should share this with their children. I’ll share this with my daughter. I will not spend more than I have on gifts for her, I will not buy her the latest technological gadgets, and I will not buy her a superfluous amount of presents. Sorry honey. I will however feed her well, cloth her, care for her, love her, be there when she needs me, and be there just because. I will tell her that Santa Claus is a “fun story” that we can enjoy during Christmas, but that mommy and daddy buy her gifts.
I’m currently reading The Story of Stuff which has me disgusted and saddened by American consumerism, production, and commercial agriculture. Let me just stop and say that I am a consumer. I am guilty of many of the same things that the next person is. For example, I bought my husband a relatively expensive football game ticket for Christmas this year. However, I’ve become a lot more conscious of what I buy. Spending money that I don’t have is a behavior that I no longer subscribe to.
A few ways that I have attempted to minimize the costs of Christmas have been: making most of my gifts (baked goods), buying used Christmas tins, Christmas stockings, and other Christmas decor, and searching Thrift/cheap stores. My husband and I found all of our Christmas “supplies” at the Habitat for Humanity Restore in our town (search your town for one, these places are INCREDIBLE!). We paid less than $20 for two bags of gently used Christmas tins, 3 stockings, and a box of Christmas cards! This is the first year that I have used Christmas stockings and I LOVE them! They are a great way to create the illusion of multiple gifts because you can stuff a bunch of small (and cheap) gifts inside them. I found all of my stocking stuffers at the Dollar Store. Another thing that you could do is to make gifts that can be shared within families. I usually bake batches of cookies that I split among relatives and friends. Other “shared gifts” could be: a handmade photo frame with a photo of you or your family, a homemade meal, and a gift card.
In my opinion, Christmas should be joyous, peaceful, and as stress-free as possible. I think that the things that matter most can’t be bought. In an eye blink a flood, tornado, or fire could destroy all of an individual’s belongings. Does that mean that the person should kill themselves because there is nothing to live for? Of course not. Take a second and think about the most memorable and significant things that have happened in your life and determine whether they involved “things” or people. My wish is that everyone enter this holiday season with a content heart and mind. Give if you feel so moved, but if you can’t that is fine also. Kindness, care, and compassion are cashless gifts.