So here we are, it is the month of December, and we are counting down the days to the biggest consumer event of the year. The initial flush of excitement of our “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” bargains has abated and we are ready to get to the serious spending. Let’s face it, that’s what this time of year is all about, right? Or am I becoming cynical in my old age?
I have always loved Christmas, but this year for some reason, I find myself not wanting to get drawn into all the hustle, bustle and craziness. Maybe it is because the frenetic pace of the past few months is relaxing a little, so I am loath to fill the void with any more busyness. Or could it be that the flagrant consumerism, waste and excess are feeling a little out of step with the practices of moderation, gratitude and mindfulness I have been trying to embrace for the last while?
For the last few months my husband and I have been trying to get a few bits and pieces done in the house. We have lived there for nine years and a lot of what needs to be done is long overdue. It has been costing money to get things in order, naturally, so there isn’t as much in the piggy bank as there normally would be at this time of the year. My husband has told me not to get him anything for Christmas in order to ease the financial stress a little. But, I have to admit, this isn’t really sitting well with me. He has said he doesn’t need anything, which is true. However, I can’t help feeling that if I don’t spoil him like I usually do, that I will be missing out more than he will be!
This realisation has made me question the whole thing. How much of the spending and fuss we go through during the festive period is more about filling a need in us, and less about making our loved ones happy? Every year I promise myself I won’t go mad, I won’t stress out and I won’t buy things just of the sake of buying. Every year I break my promises before the first door on the advent calendar has been opened. What is fueling this compulsive consumption?
Like a lot of other families, Christmas hasn’t always been easy in our house. Regardless of how bad things got, my mother has never stopped trying to give us all the “perfect Christmas.” No matter how old we get, she always tries to make sure that it is a magical time for us. Everyone’s pile of presents has to be the same size and Christmas pjs will never go out of style! No detail is left to chance and the list of traditions observed is a long as the M50 (with more being added each year!) I don’t know if she has ever really had that fairy tale Christmas she wishes for. But the fact that she never gives up on the dream of it, no matter how tough things get, is the true miracle of the season for me.
With this in mind, I urge everyone, myself included, to put down the Visa card for a second and try to think about what is really important. Our family and friends are the greatest gifts in our lives, and our time and attention is worth so much more than material items. All too often we put ourselves in debt and create stress to buy things, which will be forgotten about by New Year. Giving your time, showing love and creating memories can be stay with the person forever.
There are some really practical things we can do for people that don’t cost any money, but do take time. Do you have a sister who would love the offer of a babysitter so she and her husband can go out? Do you have a grandparent who would appreciate your help cleaning their house or putting up their Christmas tree. Do you have a colleague in work who will be alone this Christmas and would love to be invited to dinner with your family? Of course, it’s easier to just buy something. It’s far less effort to just throw money at it, but is the path of least resistance truly the best route? Maybe this year, we can try to remember that the gift of Christmas really is in being present. Be well xxx