“What do you want for Christmas Mom?” was the query from my youngest.
I wanted to say “Peace, please!” Not world peace like a beauty pageant contestant might answer, because with the guy who puts the twit in Twitter at the helm south of us the chances of that happening are being reduced daily. No, I’d like peace from the gift giving frenzy that Christmas has morphed into.
I told her I didn’t need anything as I looked around my well-stuffed living room; it is well-named and obviously well-lived in. I will never have one of those houses you see in the Design magazines with a few beautiful perfectly placed items and a dining room table you can set without first having to find a place to put all the stuff that has collected there since the last meal. I have way too much stuff now as it is and I am constantly trying to cull as my contribution to the economy overruns my home with conspicuous consumption and its paper trails.
Having our family together for Christmas was the only present I wanted I told her. She insisted she wanted to get something for me. My eyes fell on a couple of bankers boxes stored under a well-laden coffee table that are stuffed with all the photos I had taken over the years. You know they have been there awhile because actual photographs are now becoming as rare as 8-track tapes. The best gift of all would be for her and her sister to go through them over Christmas and fill some photo albums for me.
She agreed it was a great idea and she would do this for me anyway but she still wanted to buy me a present that I would love. She was like so many of us — conditioned to think that getting the perfect gift for someone was how you showed your love. The advertisers have won!
I understand that the Christmas season is very critical to retailers. Sales at this time of the year can be the making or the breaking of a business, but it can also be the breaking of spirits. The hard sell begins often before the Halloween stuff has left the shelves and we, the consumers, literally buy into it. We often spend money we don’t have on gifts our loved ones don’t usually need. No wonder Christmas has become such a stressful time of the year.
Trying to create the perfect family Christmas and the pressure of purchasing the perfect present for everyone on your evergrowing list can be perfectly relentless. It can also suck all the joy from the season. Why do we do this to ourselves year after year?
I’m slowly trying to make changes. Since both our daughters are fall babies we gave them a combined birthday/Christmas gift at Thanksgiving this year, something they both really needed. We replaced their ancient laptops; oldest daughter’s computer was missing keys and the youngest had one too outdated to support Word. Now there will just be a Christmas Stocking for each under the tree and I have a shorter list I’m trying to work my way through.
Wouldn’t life be wonderful if we could change the focus of Christmas back to that of a simpler time by putting the emphasis on family and friends’ presence not presents. With the Christmas season spread so thinly across October to Dec. 25 maybe we could spread our gift giving across that time, too, saving Christmas Day for a celebration of family and friends.
I am not the bah humbug kind. I love Christmas with my family and taking time for friends with all the traditions that make this time of the year so special for me. But I don’t like the pressures and the expectations we put on ourselves fighting the crowds and our bank balance in order to get something we hope will be appreciated and not re-gifted; not that’s there anything wrong with re-gifting. It is recycling at its best! But when I think of any past Christmas it is not the memory of presents that make me smile. It is the thought of being in the presence of my loved ones, especially those who are no longer here that warms my heart.
A wise woman once told me that the gift giving aspect of Christmas has really messed with its meaning. I’m with her and the little drummer boy and not the three wise men who started this gift giving one upmanship in the first place. Wishing everyone a joyous and love filled Christmas from my family to yours.
Dr. Marina Sexton lives in Norris Point and is a member of The Western Star's Community Editorial Board.