Saturday, December 1, 2012

Pulling the Plug on Christmas

Last Christmas as I was doing the shopping, the wrapping, the decorating, tree cutting, light hanging, pine needle sweeping and otherwise workin my a** off, I remember swearing I'd never do it again. Why in god's name would I fight the crowds, spend too much money as I check off the items on the Christmas list so that my children, who have more than they need, won't be disappointed on Christmas morning? It's been a long time since Santa graced our chimney and we don't celebrate it as a religious holiday... so what is it, peer pressure? If Jesus ain't the reason for your season, do you think American Express and Martha Stewart will take his place? As a nation of stressed-out consumers, culturally bombarded with the capitalist notion that we must spend and strive to meet over-inflated expectations, we've lost our collective connection to why we really do this.

                                            This year wants a lot more laughter and a lot less stress. 
In the spirit of renewal and re-connection, I gathered the boys this morning to talk about changin it up this year. "Rather than me producing the Christmas extravaganza while you kill zombies and aliens, why don't we do something good for the world, create something memorable and have a little fun while we're at it?"
I hear the sigh as the cheek hits the table. Rather than ask what they want, I ask what we can we give. This isn't going over too well with the younger, while the elder lets the idea skim past mumbling his assent as he remains focused on some urgent text conversation. Not getting the input and enthusiasm I'm foolishly expecting, I dig deeper. "What do you want your Christmas to be about this year? What gives it magic and meaning?" I could have served up a bowl of boiled brussels sprouts and gotten the same reaction. "How 'bout a Twelve Days of Christmas where we exchange small things, or funny gifts?" *ping of incoming text* "What about a movie night or doing something for charity?" *sigh* "Can we go snowboarding?" young Witherspoon fils queries.

                                           This year will be more about giving than getting. 

I don't have bad kids. They're not, in this respect much different from most of the middle class kids I know. But they are part of the 47% who feels entitled to an Xbox or an iPod or a smartphone; whatever the latest invention served up to our youth for consumption. I remember last year feeling as if the joy of shopping (and I do like it) had been replaced by a sense of obligation. That letter to Santa had morphed into a list of "things mom should get me or she'll feel like crap" and it makes me sad. Maybe even sadder than the boys would feel if I pulled the plug on this whole string of blinking lights. I'm not sure if I have the ornaments to go that far, but I can guarantee it will be a Christmas to remember.   

                                         This year there will be no presents, there will be gifts. 

Somewhere between the end of the world and the fiscal cliff I intend to bring a kinder, gentler (and cheaper) holiday experience.Rather than sweat it out at the mall, we'll work it up at the holiday skating rink. Instead of online shopping, I'll Google "Things to do in Denver in December". We used to do all sorts of things when the kids were little; Blossoms of Light at the Botanic Gardens, the Zoo Lights, the Nutcracker or A Christmas Carol. It was easy when they were young and full of wonder, each event building up anticipation of the big day. It feels harder on me now, exhausted by the eye rolls and resistance to being with the family. Perhaps the magic of Christmas is not gone, just lost in Teenville.

                                       This year will have no electronics, it will have turn-ons. 
So... what if I bring it back? What if we can discover time within our crazy schedules? What if we replaced the standard with the unusual? There are plenty of fun and kitchy holiday things to mix into the cookie dough. What if we actually baked, skated, brought gifts to a family in need, or...*gasp* went to Christmas Eve at the cathedral? What if we watched "Elf" and made tacky Christmas sweaters then wore them around town? What if what we gave each other came from a true exchange? Just a thought.

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