So another Thanksgiving has come and gone, along with my turkey-induced food coma. I love love LOVE turkey, and the days leading up to that Thursday—and the traditional feast associated with it—practically have me drooling. We just finished the last of the leftovers the other day. So sad.
I’ve always thought December feels like a roller coaster. Thanksgiving is that first leg of the ride, where you’re slowing being pulled to that first big drop. Click-click—buy all your food for Thanksgiving—click-click—family gathers to feast and visit—click-click-click—the day draws to a close as your full belly lulls you to sleep–click-click-click–then . . .
BLACK FRIDAY! Suddenly you’re hurled at breakneck speed into the shopping season, pulled this way and that by bright lights, Christmas music, and constant ads screaming at you to BUY MORE STUFF NOW!!!! Christmas is a time for giving, and the best way to show people you care is to spend money on stuff they may or may not need, use, or want!
This frenzied pace lasts all month long, and your stress and anxiety grows as the days tick down to Christmas. (Or whatever particular holiday you celebrate.) Shopping! Endless lists! Food! Friends! Family! Family drama! Cards! Decorating! Baking! Wrapping! Cooking! Visiting! Eating! Drinking! Being merry!
All this culminates to one final climb and swoop, as the holiday itself comes and goes. Then it’s a short jog to New Year’s, when the cars stop and you stumble off, laughing, walking a bit wobbly, and possibly throw up. Then you nurse your holiday hangover, and try to settle back into daily non-holiday life once again. The once cheerful-looking lights and decorations now look a bit less colorful, and have a touch of sadness to them. Their moment is over, and it’s just a matter of time before they’re boxed up and hauled back into storage for another year.
All that rushing around, all that planning, all that stress. All done. To some it’s a time to be sad. For others, it’s a relief.
Me? I can see it both ways. I’ll admit, as I get older, and the holidays seem to be more and more commercial, I get a bit crotchety and cynical around this time of year. The American way of life seems to revel in excess–bigger, flashier, and more expensive–and that message is getting louder every year. Holidays aren’t about family and peace on Earth and goodwill toward man and appreciating what you have, it’s about getting as much stuff as humanly possible, the more expensive the better.
But I also love the decorations and lights and freedom to eat all the sweet things my low will-power will allow. I love that feeling, when you get away from the noise, and the ads, and the stores, of a calm and happiness in the air. I think a lot of us still carry that feeling of excitement and wonder from when we were kids and “OMG CHRISTMAS” just lit our faces and put the butterflies in our bellies as those December days were oh-so-slowly crossed off the calendar. There’s a feeling that comes with the holidays, and if you slow down and close your eyes, you can still see, deep inside, that little kid you used to be. Counting down the days until Santa visits.
And I don’t really hate the idea of buying presents. My kids are still young, and are still happy with pretty simple, inexpensive things. Their shopping is pretty much done, as is most of my husband’s. There are still a few things I want to do, mostly some crochet projects, but for the most part, I’m good.
So fundamentally, I have no problems with the holidays. In some cases it can bring the best out of people, and there are some really great stories of kindness, compassion, and generosity. It’s this larger feeling of materialism that bothers me. This illusion of obligation—that you must buy buy buy to prove you’re a good person and show others you care. And by “others” I mean anyone you’ve passed two words with the rest of the year—personally or professionally.
I try to focus on the positive of the season. To see the holiday through the eyes of my kids. To keep things happy and light and exciting for them. Sometimes I slip—usually when assaulted with advertising for yet another BEST SALE OF THE YEAR or something—and my inner Grinch comes out. But I try to keep the cranking to a minimum.
Now I’m off to try and finish out my various projects. Only a few short weeks until Santa comes, after all.