I haven’t done very much for Christmas this year. We’ve partially decorated the tree, and I’ve set out a few garlands. The stockings are sitting on the dining room table, but it took me almost a week to notice I never put them up. The few cards I’ve received are in a pile on the kitchen table.
Most of my decorations are still in their storage boxes. I’ve narrowed this down to two reasons. One, I took a look at my decorations and realized with some dismay that only 10% have any religious or spiritual meaning. Aside from our Nativity scene, advent wreath, and some greenery, everything I have is commercial and generically pleasing. I was thumbing through The Catholic Home the other day and realized there is much I can still do to impart tradition and culture in our home. I intend to work on that this year, starting with Lent. (That’s a great book, by the way. The writing is casual and humorous.)
The second reason is far less philosophical: I’m not into it this year. I’m not into it this year and every year I get a little less into it. Right now, all the talk seems to be about hot toys. What they are; where to get them; who’s willing to go through the hysteria.
Furbies; Toy “R” Us; Not me.
I credit the work I’ve done around the home for The William Morris Project as the cloth that wiped the lens clean. I see the holidays differently now. I’m applying the useful/beautiful standard to how we celebrate Christmas, and I’m finding the 397 presents under the tree lacking. I used to take the stance that, yes, some gifts are amusing for a minute, but the joy on your child’s face makes the frivolous purchase worthwhile. There is something so amazing about a tree bursting with presents underneath! It looks festive and happy, like in the catalogs.
We’ve never gone crazy with the presents–after I quit working it wasn’t an option–but I know we’ve bought more than we should in years past. This year I want to avoid the Christmas catalog trap. I refuse to feel guilty, cheap, or mean for not kowtowing before the almighty Christmas list. I’ve taken great pains to explain to Mikey that children don’t receive everything on their Christmas lists, because as I pull away from the commercialism of the holidays, he rolls in it like a cat in clover. This is the first year he understands Christmas is an opportunity to get stuff, and his list reflects his belief in the miracle of Christmas.
The miracle includes an iPad, an iPhone, an iPod, a motorcycle, a set of chef knives, a new Wii, and pages 7-13 of the Toys “R” Us catalog. What’s miraculous is that he believes any of the above are within the realm of possibility.
I mean, really. A motorcycle?
(He says he needs it so he can test his latest invention, an airbag device for motorcyclists. It’s like a giant rubber hamster wheel that envelops the biker so they just kind of bounce to a stop after an accident. I think. I don’t know, his notes are somewhere in his room.)
Our neighbors buy their children three gifts each, all from Santa. They had to employ this rule because the grandparents go nuts and there is no stopping them. My sister in-law’s family exchanges three gifts each, but at home there is no set number of gifts aside from the three Santa brings.
Every plan for moderation has a loophole. No matter what you do or how you do it, you’re still faced with a pile of forgotten toys by February.
We haven’t yet decided how we are going to handle presents this year. I have begged my parents to show restraint, and I think this year they will. We plan to do the same, because I don’t want to feel like I am going through the motions at Christmas. I want to be calm, and relaxed, and content. I want to believe in Christmas, and I want to believe in miracles.