The music, the decorations, the sale ads—the holidays are already here. While I promise to get back to humor next time, today I have to step on my seasonal soapbox.
Like a lot of people, I sometimes find this time of year to be hard. Between the loss of family gatherings due to time and distance, the rampant and unnecessary consumerism, no holiday break, a dash of deep depression and a partridge in a pear tree, I would much rather just skip to January 2.
There won’t be a big family meal, and come Christmas there won’t be many—if any—gifts. Times are tight and money is even tighter, regardless of the date on the calendar.
I’ve never been bitter because we don’t have money for things, but I do get annoyed that others are so obsessed with those things.
However, I get it. It’s easy to feel pressured to buy things, eat foods that don’t make you feel good and stress about spending time with people you might not enjoy all that much except in small doses.
When that’s no longer an option, you learn a valuable lesson—be better, not bitter, and be thankful for all that you have.
So this time of year I really have to distance myself from certain things online and on TV, as I can’t stand seeing people filmed on Black Friday – ravenous for deals on TVs, cameras, phones, etc., people in malls pushing others over, obsessed with getting things.
Then they show Christmas Day.
The mall is quiet. People are home with their families. The holiday is over. Until the next shot when it’s Dec. 26 and people are right back at the mall again, ravenous for after-Christmas sales and replacing the gifts they didn’t want. It’s like somehow Christmas didn’t happen for some people. It didn’t fill the hole. It wasn’t enough.
It’s different when you’re a kid, or at least it was for me, and so I understand that it’s different for parents.
The holidays were a magical time with no worries, only wonder. The fact that parents can take the time to create fun traditions and keep that magic alive is priceless, and something I keep with me now.
Growing up I was lucky enough that every holiday dozens of people in my big Polish family would be crammed around tables full of food and conversation. And while I might remember a few of the special gifts that I got, those “things” aren’t first on my mind.
What I remember much more are the things that we did and said, making the food that we ate and places we went every year.
So this year with every Black Friday ad, every person complaining about “surviving the holidays” like it’s a terminal illness, I’m going to try not roll my eyes.
Instead when they complain about feeling burdened to buy gifts, I might kindly remind them to connect to why the person they’re shopping for is special to them and how they want them to feel when they open the gifts.
Instead of overcommitting to events that just leave them drained, try to take a moment to stop and take in the sights and the smells of the season. Step back and ask, “What do I want to remember?” And if they have kids, “What do I want them to remember?”
Because even though some things are unavoidable—crazy uncles making “breast or leg man” jokes around a dead bird carcass stuffed with stale bread, awkward company parties, people freaking out over red cups at Starbucks—there are some things we can control.
We can be thankful for things that we have and make the memories that we want to keep–and that doesn’t cost a dime.
(Steps off soapbox, trips, has a piece of broccoli fall out of my shirt that fell in there sometime while I was eating dinner.)
Let the season begin.