Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Every year, I have delusions of producing the perfect Christmas. I'm not alone, I know - Christmas has become the 400 pound gorilla of holidays - the holiday which must be appeased. For months, starting in October, messages assault us (mothers, mostly) from every direction, shrilly insisting that we buy this, that, and the other to make our family happy. I read that the average family spends nearly $800 on Christmas every year, and most of us charge it on the credit card.
Well, we all know that's not sustainable. Not only is a buying spree at the mall expensive, but it is also stressful and leaves many of us with a feeling of soul-lessness and disappointment. The children shriek with glee for one-point-seven seconds as they rip open every lovingly wrapped package, and then have a sugar-induced meltdown and throw a temper fit that they didn't get (insert name of this year's hottest toy here). And has there been any mention of peace on earth or of goodwill towards one fellow man? Has anyone felt the "Spirit of Christmas?" Well, maybe you watched the Peanuts Christmas Special. It's a good show, and as close as most of us get.
I know I'm not alone in wanting to opt out of the whole American Big Business Christmas. Also, most of us would like to avoid paying 18% interest on an average of $800. So what is a mother of young children to do? There are various ways to opt out, I suppose: one could convert to another religion and celebrate Hanukkah or Yule instead. But Christmas would happen around you like the tide breaking on a rock and the children would not be fooled. You could ban gifts altogether and do something like volunteer as a family at the local soup kitchen instead. Now, I'm not suggesting for a minute that volunteerism is a bad thing, but that solution feels drastic and kind of Grinch-ish to me. I can't endorse any solution that completely bypasses gift-giving. Gifts are good, gifts make both the giver and the givee happy. Giving with a capitol "G" is in fact the root of the meaning of this holiday, is it not?
So, like many of you, I look for less expensive and slightly more meaningful ways to give gifts. Some people (like my mother, bless her heart) choose to make donations to causes that they know are close to the heart of the person they wish to give to. Last year my mother gave to the Heifer Project in my name. Last year, I myself chose to do an all-secondhand Christmas (Christmas 2009, Thrift Store Edition). That was less than wholly successful, but it was not a failure either.
This year, I am going for the gold: a wholly homemade Christmas. Well, okay, a mostly homemade Christmas. I will still stuff stockings with candy and small presents, but the gifts under the tree and those that I send to family and friends will be homemade. As it happens, I have recently been learning to sew, so if you are a part of my circle you should expect cloth-based presents. And yes, I freely admit, I am a novice seamstress, so my gifts may not be up to professional standards. But neither are they produced in overseas sweatshops; nor do they cause me to go into debt; and every last one was made with the recipient in mind, individually. And humble as they are, they are expressions of my love and care for each one of you, and gifts of my heart and hands.
So go ahead and laugh, but keep it to yourself!
Rowan spinning yarn for her homemade gifts
Paloma modeling a child's apron (not saying who it is for)
Me, actually using a sewing machine all by myself.