Monday, November 5, 2012

You dont have to...

This has been written from the perspective of someone who celebrates Christmas holidays, so it is ‘christmas-centric” but there are  many other celebrations that put stress on families at this time of year.

You don’t have to…
You don’t have to is one of the most powerful reminders of the end-of-year season.

You don’t have to buy gifts.
You don’t have to attend functions
You don’t have to write cards.
You don’t have to spend too much.

We are more and more prone to forget this, the later in the year we get. And it is heart breaking. My friend is about to have her child’s first Christmas, and rather than looking forward to showing the baby off and seeing all the family, she is in a panic state in November, because the obligation to host everyone who wants to come and see baby will bankrupt them while they are only on one income.

I just said, “Do you have to? And her head just about exploded. Mind. Blown. What else would she do, if not decorate, cook, buy gifts for, and host an entire family? When you take a step back, the expectation that a young family with a new baby would want to, let alone be ABLE to do the above is patently ridiculous.

Whatever your religion/spirituality or holiday schedule, there will no doubt be something at the end of the year that puts the pressure on you to deliver “perfection”.
I say, walk away.
This holiday season we are taking the family camping. No presents. No fuss. No stress.
I cannot wait. Yes, I enjoy carols and decorations so there will be tinsel and fairy lights on my tent, and my mum loves Christmas cake, so that will no doubt be in attendance. But once we were actually honest about what was causing stress, it was the cost.
Not just the cost of gifts.
The cost of time and pressure to achieve “perfect memories” every single December, regardless of what else is going on.
I’ve handmade dried orange and cinnamon stick wreaths, chutneys, sweets, truffles, and crafts in an effort to cut costs by making presents, and resulted in a wonderful haze of exhaustion by the time I actually got a holiday. Money isn’t the only cost to Christmas and more and more, as a result of my arthritis I am aware of not wanting to waste the precious commodity that is my strength and energy.

November/December without presents to buy is a special kind of heaven, and the end of year, without trying to bake and decorate is awesome.  What will probably happen is that I will feel like doing a little baking close to the time, and I will. But it will be because I want to and have the energy reserves, and that is how it should be. No obligations.

So go have a chat to your families. Talk about what is needed, what is wanted, and what is painfully pointless tradition.  Empower your family with their own traditions.

Our tradition until this year has been for everyone to bring one gift, and through opening the presents and “stealing” off each other, we finally get to keep the gift we can steal three times.
This Christmas I will be missing my Nan dreadfully, but I will have the memory of tears of laughter last Christmas where we did a “secret Santa steal” and Nan REALLY wanted one of the gifts, and people kept taking it off her. She used her wiles, sneakiness and a bit of blackmail to get it back, and the fun of the challenge was more important than the gift. I have a wonderful photo of her grinning like a loon and clutching something to her chest. Her smile will be one of my favorite memories for years to come, not the gift.

In fact, come to think of it, I can’t remember what the gift was.


Some gentle alternatives to consider.

Dinner at a RSA/Pub/Café where each person pays their own way.

‘Bring a plate’ Christmas dinner.

Perhaps a “progressive celebration” where each course is served at a different family member’s house?

A cost limit on gifts.

Instead of gifts, ask that everyone brings an offer of a service which they can provide and use it as a lucky draw to see who gets whose offering?

Why not hold Christmas day two days late, and purchase everything you need in the Boxing Day sales?

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