A friend recently called me very, very frustrated about Christmas presents. It has just turned November, and she was already feeling anxiety and stress about Christmas presents.
The cause of her stress is, thankfully, easy to identify and straight-forward: she doesn't like the overabundance of gifts or the type of gifts given to her children or herself by her extended family members.
We chatted for a long time about why her family prefers to lavish the children with gifts instead of choosing one special gift to give. We, of course, covered political, cultural, and religious reasons leading to the discontent between her and her family during our conversation. We tried to solve the world's materialism problems in about 45 minutes.
This morning, while reading Simple Abundance, I was struck at how the author "hit the nail on the head" when it comes to Christmas in many households when talking about the story of The Velveteen Rabbit. Note, the author wasn't talking about Christmas; she was talking about how to become Real, but the meaning of the message is applicable to my thoughts about what's under the tree:
"The boy was enchanted and played with the rabbit for two whole hours until the family directed his attention to all the other wonderful parcels lying under the tree..." and afterward, the rabbit was forgotten.
For the past few years, my immediate family has switched from store bought gifts to homemade gifts. It's our attempt to not direct attention to other parcels under the tree. We think about what to make for others for months in advance; this year, we started working on gifts for family members in September. While working on gifts for others, my daughter finds herself thinking about what one very special thing she wants for Christmas each year. She asks for that one special gift from Santa.
This year, like most holiday years, my husband and I will work hard to push back against the trend of "holiday over-abundance." We will make gifts, think about what gifts would truly make us happy, and strategically ask extended family members for those presents. We will continue to minimize tv commercials so that we are not brainwashed into believing we want things we do not want. We will focus on spending our holiday budget money on activities together instead of items bought.
After Christmas is over, we will be exhausted from this battle against the world outside our four walls, but we will be happier for it. Some people may think that we are over-protecting our child, making her a social-misfit, preventing her from feeling special at Christmas, etc, but we feel that we are teaching her how to find her own meaning of the holidays and how to stay focused on that meaning.
And, sneak peak, we will have a homemade bat house from it! More to come on that.....