Underdoing Christmas

My husband works for UPS. It’s normally a part time gig, but for “peak season”, it’s grueling 12-hour days. Last weekend, on a sushi date night, we ran into his supervisor. He said to me, “Thanks for letting us have him for so much extra time. I hope he puts a lot of presents under the tree.” I laughed and smiled, but inside I was rolling my eyes because this widespread idea, perpetuated by the media, that Christmastime is all about working harder, to make more money, to buy more presents, in order to be happy is the antithesis of our values.

My husband and I stopped exchanging Christmas gifts years ago, when we realized we didn’t need to go through the infamous as-seen-on-TV formalities to express our feelings; that our unending love and support for one another is a daily gift. This was an easy conclusion for us, but when you have kids, there’s just no getting around it. Christmas = Presents. And although they don’t need new toys, we certainly don’t deprive our children of this thrill on December 25th. Families set their own standards, and kids develop their expectations accordingly. Our Christmas standard is a few, quality gifts, usually of their own choosing. Their expectations are exactly that. And they’re just as excited as the next kid.

Keeping the gifts to a select minimum is not just about saving money. It’s about choosing moderation over excess. It’s about honoring our principles and keeping things simple, meaningful, and enjoyable. It’s about deemphasizing the obsession with stuff, and instead focusing on making memories that will last a lifetime.

Wrapping the arbor in lights… searching for just the right tree… rediscovering each ornament… deciding how to arrange the stockings… cuddling up with The Polar Express and How the Grinch Stole Christmas… playing “Santa” and “toy factory”… putting the finishing touches on the gingerbread houses… cranking up the Christmas music and dancing around the living room… taking the season’s first sip of egg nog or the first taste of that annual candy cane… (and of course opening those few, quality gifts)… That’s the magic of Christmas. 

We don’t shop secondhand (as we should, being “near-o wasters”), we do cut down a live tree (as wasteful as it may seem to some), and we’ll even buy new lights if last year’s have burned out. But we wrap our gifts in fabric bags, politely refuse netting for the tree, and recycle the old lights.

And when it comes to overconsumption, we underdo it.

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5 thoughts on “Underdoing Christmas

  1. Nadine November 30, 2015 / 11:46 pm

    Mmhmmm a very festive, and magical post indeed! I loved your point in the first paragraph about the consumer cycle so strongly perpetuated by the media. This is a frustrating thought, and also that it seems many feel obligated to give material gifts. I do appreciate the experience gifts, but would also appreciate no gift at all. If there is nothing I need, there is nothing I really want, except for to spend many happy hours together with the people I love most in the world; what better gift is there?

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  2. Amanda Chapman December 1, 2015 / 6:28 am

    Well said, I absolutely agree about the whole “working hard to buy presents” the same goes with things like engagement rings. My partner & I also don’t do Christmas gifts or any other holiday except the ones personal to us, and then we usually just go away together 🙂

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  3. Lauraki December 3, 2015 / 3:40 am

    We have the same tradition for Christmas : time together for cooking and lightening home. We also reduce presents (buy second hand) and last year we spend 10 days of vacations for only gift in Mexico. Nive memories and my daughter who is 3, speaks again of it!

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  4. Natalie T. December 3, 2015 / 9:48 pm

    Simplifying the holiday so that it emphasizes spending fun, enjoyable time with loved ones, in a warm festive home, with a few special holiday treats is what Christmas is all about for my husband and I. We put up “just-enough” Christmas decorations (in our opinions, not others) to feel festive, watch a few good films in bed, sip hot chocolate and mulled wine, nibble on panettone and English rice pudding, take afternoon naps, go for walks in the park or around our neighborhood, read great books and work as a team on one of our favorite winter tradition – completing a beautiful jigsaw puzzle.

    We don’t give material gifts to each other, just the gift of time, attention and love. Neither of us were brought up expecting our parents to give us Christmas gifts (raised in Asia) and yet, I’ve never had a bad family Christmas memory. As a child, I was simply happy to have a few days off from the rigors of school, after attending the rare and much appreciated school-wide Christmas party, eat some delicious holiday foods, go to the library, park or a friend’s home to play and watch some cool cartoons on tv. I guess it is a different culture and perhaps a different time as well, since I’ve noticed the materialistic trend rising in Asia during Christmastime over the years. We’ve ambitiously decided to raise our children in the similar fashion of our childhood and pass on our values. Let’s see how it will fare in today’s western world!

    Thanks for sharing your family’s take on this commercialized holiday. Those gingerbread cookies look positively gourmet!

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    • Near-O Waste December 4, 2015 / 12:57 am

      Thank you! And thank you for sharing your take as well. It all sounds lovely. I think our children (yours and mine) will grow up appreciating how they were raised 🙂

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