So here we are again – only a couple of weeks before Christmas. The scurrying around started weeks ago but now it’s really heating up. And there are lots of seasonal events competing for all of our very-limited time. There are luncheons, office parties, open houses, children’s plays and recitals, awards banquets, house parties, cocktail parties, trim-the-tree parties, cookie swaps, dessert parties….whew! Not to mention that we all still have work, kids activities, volunteer activities and family activities that are a part of our normal, non-holiday lives. And we have to decorate, trim our own tree and shop for holiday gifts.
This year the economy is still casting its dark shadow over all of us in some form or another. People are out of work, underemployed, holding on by a thread or giving up on being able to find work altogether. The news can be pretty depressing. In the midst of all of this, we’re all trying to do what we’ve always done (or close to it) with less – in some cases, a lot less. And now Christmas is right around the corner.
I for one, think that the Christmas holidays during an economic slump is a really good thing. It forces us (since we clearly need reminding from time to time) that Christmas is not about more stuff. In fact it’s not about stuff at all. It’s not about new toys or new clothes, or who has the biggest anything. It’s not about overextending our bank accounts so we’ll need until next Christmas to pay off the bills. Nor is it about buying things we don’t need so we can impress someone at some event. Or buying your kids more and more toys when they don’t use or appreciate half of what they have now. It’s about the only really precious commodity that there is – TIME. Time spent with your family and friends. Time spent with an aging relative who may not be here for the next holiday. Time spent helping others who are less fortunate than you are. Time to show your thanks for what you have no matter how little or great that is. Time to spend remembering what the real message of Christmas is – whether you’re religious or not.
I know it’s become a cliché, but the holidays have become way too commercial. Holiday decorating and advertising starts while you haven’t even gotten through the holiday before. Advertisers are relentless in fighting to get you to spend your hard-earned dollars on their merchandise. Black Friday and Cyber Monday have marketing strategies dedicated to making you leave you families at ungodly hours just so you can stand in line in the cold and compete to score a half-priced something or other.
I really do long for a simpler time when as kids we received one special gift for Christmas – one that you really wanted and you waited all year to hope to find under the Christmas tree. When gifts were often handmade… Like your neighbor’s special homemade jam or holiday cookies. Or that cool sweater that your aunt knitted just for you – that you have kept all these years later because it reminds you of her. Or the sled that your dad made that was better and stronger than all of the store-bought ones your friends had. When your stocking was filled with little things that you needed, like a new toothbrush, or socks or your favorite candy, and new barrettes for your hair and maybe a couple of oranges. Yes, clearly you can tell what generation I am from. But I make no apologies. I had a great childhood. We were not well off growing up. My parents worked hard for everything we had and my sister and I knew it and appreciated everything. And one of the best things about the holidays was (and still is) the time we spent together – no matter what we were doing. Some of my best holiday memories happened while we were making and decorating cookies with my mom and my aunt. Or when my dad would gather my sister and I into bed on a Saturday morning and make up stories to tell us while my mom got breakfast ready for us all to enjoy together. I miss those days.
So this year, my wish for you at this special time of year, is that you take a moment and think about how you’re spending your precious commodity – your time. When you look at your Christmas list, think about how you can buy less and do and make things that will give you more time with your loved ones. How can I make real memories with and for my family? Because the real memories of the holidays are made together. And no one ever really remembers what you gave them…they only remember how you made them feel.
I wish you all a warm and merry Christmas and very happy, healthy and successful new year.