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.