This Year, We’re Going With Festivus!


I was wondering what my topic would be for today, then I came across this post by Erica Ehm at the YummyMummyClub about her trip to Africa and the effect it had on Christmas. (I have to admit that I struggle with the name of this blog…it seems fraudulent of me to hang out literarily with other Moms who consider themselves “Yummy”. You could check into my post about the hat, wherein I explain that this is not a “Yummy” year for me).

That aside, I decided to write this post.  Then I had to decide to post it. Then I had to actually post it…it wasn’t easy. But it seems that if this blog has any value then it has to be authentic.  There will be some things I won’t write about…but I needed to post this because it’s honest and I don’t think I should be ashamed by the admission that money is tight, even though I am just a bit.

So, this year, we’re going to have what I like to think of as the “Broke-Ass Christmas”.  I am learning how to say “Broke-Ass Christmas” in Spanish…and French, just because one should never ignore a chance to learn, even in times of stress, Besides, I have long regretted not speaking a second language.  I’ve always thought of it as kind of rude not to speak Spanish since I live here in SoCal. But anyway, there it is. Our tree will be a little bit bare underneath this year. I’m not a huge fan of having this decision forced upon us, but having my kids know that there isn’t actually a money tree doesn’t hurt them either. They have had many marvelous Christmas mornings before this and will I’m sure have more to follow.

This is not to say that my kids will do without. Far from it, if they didn’t have enough already, and they do, they will receive gifts from at least 3 separate households. It’s just that ours will not be one of them.  But I don’t think that this will irreparably harm them.  I’m kind of hoping it will be the beginning of a new trend toward less materialistic Christmases in the future, because I’ve long been annoyed by the pressure to find gifts that no one really needs.  In this day and age in society, goods are quickly and relatively inexpensively produced and just as quickly replaced. Also, I am bad at giving and receiving gifts and I’d like to be excused.

Mostly, I don’t want to spend hours, days and weeks stressing and searching out presents for other adults that don’t need them in the first place. And really, you have my permission to skip me as well.  I have now sufficiently matured enough to tell you I don’t need anywhere near as much in the way of things as I think I do.  With the possible exception of maybe a house or the gift of having my current dental crises handled, at this age, the things I value most are the kind that generally can’t be put under a tree.  Things like more time, less fear, a deeper sense of peace.

I’d like to have more energy. I’d like to spend more evenings with really good people who have something to say.  I could go for more laughter and kindness. Actually, I’d like to stay in my pajamas for a week and just be generally irresponsible in a way that I haven’t been since before I had kids.  But just for a week, because I don’t know if I could handle any longer than that.

But the thing is, I just don’t know how to break the people around me of the habit.  They would feel terribly, terribly guilty if they didn’t get me something.  For me, much of the pressure comes from the Golf Pro’s family.  They would feel terrible to know this I’m sure, as that isn’t their intention. But you see, they have this elaborate present ritual where we all sit around in a circle and then the presents are given out individually, one at a time. They are not opened until everyone’s attention is centered on the individual with the present and the givers name announced. The present is opened and there is much ooohing and aaahing and admiring. There is a Vanna White moment of display and demonstration and only then do we move on to the next present.  This is all for the adults mind you.  I think it happens because the 2nd generation of children was very late in coming and so they have continued with the familiar traditions of their house when it had children in it rather than being able to incorporate fresh traditions. But perhaps this is a very common way to do it, I wouldn’t know.

In the midst of all this, picture being the ones who are conspicuous by not having gifts to offer up into the display rotation. And yet, they don’t seem to need anything much.  So what do you give that is not embarrassing somehow?  In over 10 years I have never been able to crack this problem.  And it seems like a struggle to me, but at the same time, you have to admire the strength and commitment of their family traditions…it’s just that it feels like theirs, not ours. But that may be on me, it’s hard to say. They are nice people and I don’t want to imply otherwise.  I just never can get comfortable with the formality of it all (says she with her terribly limited Christmas tradition experience).

I think I’d still like to have a less material take on Christmas (thanks this Christmas for lending a hand with that!).  And I think I’m not doing it right, but that’s a problem for next year.  This year, I’m pretty exhausted, and I’m running late putting the tree up and all. And the older three will be gone away for a week on their annual ski trip with their father, which I am doing my level best to pretend isn’t happening.  So I’m looking at a low maintenance Christmas all around…

I wonder if I could get away with giving them all a George Costanza type Christmas gift –

“A Donation Has Been Made in Your Name to the Human Fund.”

Happy Festivus.

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2 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. The last 4 Christmas holidays have been lean. So lean that I had to miss paying the utilities and arranging extensions, and then more extensions with a compassionate customer service agent. My husband did not know, nor did the kids. No one, including myself missed much.
    Years before, in my 20’s I was fed up with Christmas. Stores wanted my money and my sanity. The struggle would yield me as the victor in my early 30’s.
    Now I share what I love best. My cooking. I cook to relive memories I treasure. And hope that my cooking will do the same for its recipients.
    Christmas is about what I love…
    Food, memories with loved ones, and kindness.
    I wish the same for everyone this year and every year.
    Happy Holidays.

    December 11th, 2010

  2. Sharon

    My family of origin never spent tons of money on holidays – we didn’t have tons of money. My husband and I don’t tend to do extravagent gifts. Our kids always had lots of books, videos, stuffed animals, crayons and the like under the tree, but we nearly burst a blood vessel when my sister in law bought her 2 boys a $2500.00 go-cart for Christmas in the mid 90s. We don’t shop like that. We usually give all our nieces and nephews the same gift – it makes shopping easier. From one side of the family, we get effusive thanks. From the other side, we frequently get grumbles telling of hurt feelings because “we know you can afford better.” For us, a gift is about saying, “I thought about you.” In general, it should be small and affordable. My kids had their own rooms, summer camp, lessons in dance, gymnastics, sewing, karate, drawing etc, trips to fabulous places, horseback riding camp – they didn’t need piles of “stuff.” Experiences – those I’ll spend money on. For her wedding, my daughter got a wrapped gift of a cookbook from us, but we also paid for a honeymoon cruise. Memories, knowledge, travel, experiences – those last forever. Stuff wears out, breaks, collects dust. Today is my son’s birthday. From us he gets a video game – and a party wherein we take a couple dozen kids to the movies, buy them popcorn and then take them to pizza. Never feel bad about not making presents a competition, giving less or appreciating more.

    December 17th, 2010

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