No matter how much I dread it, Christmas comes every year, like it or not. For years as a child, I was sick every Christmas. I recall coughing all night every night for weeks before the holiday and a while after. My asthma made me cough continuously, and no one got much sleep. Eventually, we got an artificial Christmas tree, and the coughing ceased. Come to find out, I was allergic to the real Christmas tree, and it triggered my asthma. As I watch Christmas movies where everyone waxes poetic about the idyllic Christmases with their extended families, with special cookies, beautiful decorations, and feeling special, I wonder who wrote those movies and where they got their ideas of Christmas. I’m not convinced that anyone has a holiday like that.
As an adult, Christmas was fun when the children were little. I enjoyed being generous, and they were so easy to please. Now my four children are adults, however, it’s not as much fun. Everyone complains about putting up the tree and criticize the decorations. The things my children want and need are too big for me to afford. And now that they’ve left home, I’m no longer sure what gifts they would appreciate. They all like gift cards which are fun to receive, but seem impersonal and no fun to give. I’ve asked about gifts I’ve given in the past only to realize they were returned to the store or were never used. I obviously can’t choose well for my children any more, and I don’t see much point in giving gifts that I agonize over and then they don’t want. I want to be happy and generous, but it’s feeling forced this year. I approach the holiday again this year with anxiety and trepidation.
I’ve discussed the conflict before, inWhen Past and Present Collide, Generosity of Spirit, and even earlier in Struggling with the Holidays. Since I rather dislike tradition, each year is a clean slate and a chance to find a pleasurable way to handle the holiday. This year we’ll have the kids over for a large meal and then play family games – that part is always fun. But for the gift-giving session this year, I want to try something new. I’ve suggested that each child buy a game for the family to share instead of personal gifts. Once a month, we’ll have family game night, rotating out the different games. What I want more than anything, is to continue to laugh together and enjoy each other’s company. I love spending time with my adult children more than any of my other friends. We always laugh a lot and feel at ease together. I see a new side of them as adults that I appreciate. At a fundamental level, we already know each other; there are no pretenses. We have an off-beat creativity together that makes our time a lot of fun when we hit our groove.
I thought this solution was perfect. The financial hardship is almost nil. Instead, we give the gift of time together. Perfect, right? I’m tired of the peer pressure to do Christmas like everyone else. I don’t feel like the Hallmark crowd; I’m not into decorations and pretentious trees. I just want to fill my Christmas tree with ornaments that are rarely fancy, but are personal and meaningful to us. No house lights; they are a waste of the planet’s resources. I don’t feel like I should get shamed into the American way of spending more than I can afford and giving gifts that get returned. I want Christmas to be authentic, personal, and tailored to our family. My husband and three out of four of my children are on board. What do I do with the one who won’t go along? If you have some advice, I’d love to hear it. Please leave a comment!