Wednesday, November 25, 2009

decking the halls

Some of us might not be christians but you can be assured that if you suggest skipping the commercialism of the season by not giving Christmas presents this year then you’ll be about as popular as a foreskin at a synagogue. If you really want to shit people off, give them an Oxfam unwrapped voucher instead. You might feel a little smug that your socialist friend’s had a piglet donated to some far flung village in their name but they’d really have preferred a bottle of wine.

But Christmas is all about the kids, isn’t it? Even if you’ve pared the extended family’s adult gift list back and gone in for a kris kringle, it’s still likely that you have to buy every child a present as well. As one friend remarked recently, “…even if the “children” are now in their 20s”.

Why is it that we reinforce the notion that Christmas is about buying as much plastic crap for small kids that they either break or forget about them the next day? Or because you’ve been a bad aunt and not kept up to date with the trends you’ve given them something they already have or it is so 2008 and they don’t want it any more.

As I don’t have children, I feel I am not allowed to voice my thoughts on the season. So thank the goddess for this blog!

So you are a non-church-going family but do the full-blown Christmas thing. There’s an advent calendar for each of the kiddies but that’s about the chocolate not the religious message, right? They are learning carols about “Christ the saviour” but it’s ok that’s just tradition. Then we throw capitalism into the mix and have to buy them a pile of presents. Not just one or two but a truck load of “stocking fillers” because you love them, right? What messages do you really think you are teaching them?

The festive season is a great time of year to raise a little consciousness. I recently met a family that have a strict policy around gift giving – everything must be homemade. That’s right, they have these kids who are turning into well-adjusted teenagers who’ve grown up without the latest dolls, toys or gadgets. They make their own cards, sew, draw, paint and re-fashion recycled items. They’ve learnt to have Christmas without the angst of last minute shopping and draining the piggy bank. The parents nurture their own creativity along with their childrens’. Spending more time together and less money – now that’s a Christmas equation worth exploring.

I’ve watched so many friends with young families get into debt at the end of every year, just so they can give their children a swag of gifts. But what is the real cost of debt? Working more hours, feeling stressed and ultimately being less “present”, distracted by the growing credit card bills?

Look I’m just a jaded old barren bitch, what do I know? But I do remember my own childhood. I wanted more time with my workaholic dad. I wanted my mum to not have to apologise for his absence or his over worked, cranky moods. I wanted more barbecues on the beach or Sunday afternoons fishing together on the jetty. My favourite holiday was the one where we all went camping instead of going to a motel.

I can’t remember a single “stocking filler” I was given in my childhood but I do remember the little bowl of cherries more than the bowl of sweets, that were beside my bed “from Santa” and have deep affection for the fruit for life.

Sure we had a stack of presents but there is only one I remember. A bike. A much wanted and didn’t think I’d get one – bike. For a kid not keen on sport a bike taught me that being active was fun. The bike was never forgotten by Easter.

What do you remember about childhood Christmases? How do you teach kids about the season (look I’m figuring if you read this you are not a died in the wool christian)? What are you sick of compromising? What would you like to change?

cross-posted on deliberately barren