There’s nothing wrong with Christmas except almost everything. Frantically buying presents. Obsessively decorating the house. Feverishly socializing. Leave all of that stuff out and you’re left with something good.
It just isn’t Christmas as we in the United States know it. But it’s surely a lot closer to what the man we’re supposedly honoring, Jesus, would have wanted.
I found this image at Buy Nothing Christmas ’06, along with other posters that inspired my increasingly minimalist Christmas soul. Last night Laurel said, “Let’s not get each other any presents this year.” “Sounds good to me,” I told her.
I’ve already stopped giving gifts to anybody but my wife and daughter. And, to me. Giving starts with our own self, I concluded long ago (probably as soon as I knew what a gift was). Who knows what I need or want better than me?
Laurel generally agrees. So leading up to Christmas we buy some gifts for ourselves, hand them to the other person, and then try to forget about what we’re going to open on December 25.
This is one way to unplug the Christmas machine, which is the title of a book that I bought many years ago but haven’t fully taken to heart (disturbingly, you can pay $33 for an Unplugging Christmas kit; that seems overly commercial, given the goal of overcoming Christmas commercialism).
It’s time. Laurel and I no longer see any point in marching along with the Christmas bandwagon. Financial gain is the main driver of the insane holiday parade that starts before Halloween and ends after the New Year. Yesterday was “Black Friday,” the day stores supposedly start to make money for the year and go in the black.
Well, they’ll just have to get along without our usual excessive Christmas purchasing. If we really need or want something, we’ll get it for ourselves. If not, we won’t. There’s no reason for me to keep on replacing perfectly good shirts that I’ve hardly worn just because I’ve gotten some new ones for Christmas.
A fellow Tai Chi student and his wife have set up the Elizabeth Bowers Zambia Education Fund in honor of their daughter, who died in a bicycle accident while working as a Peace Corps volunteer in Zambia. The fund provides scholarships for young village women who otherwise wouldn’t receive an education.
You can’t believe how much happier I’ll be this year giving a donation to the fund rather than wandering around the Salem Center Mall the week before Christamas, searching aimlessly for a present for Laurel, who is horribly difficult to shop for because (1) she’s picky when it comes to clothes and personal items and (2) she likes shopping for herself and already has anything she really needs, just because I know she’ll have gotten me some “extra” gifts that I didn’t buy for myself and I’ll feel like a Scrooge if I don’t make an attempt to buy her something, even though there’s a really high probability that she’ll be returning it the week after Christmas.
If you need any more convincing to turn off your own Christmas machine—all those habits and traditions that don’t really mean much to you, but you keep on doing them anyway for no reason other than habit and tradition—listen to Joel Kroeker’s "Buy Nothing at All" song that I found on the Buy Nothing Christmas site.