I have mixed feelings when I hear people having conversations about how near we are to Christmas, and how they’ve got so much still to do in preparation for this one day of…. well what is it? What is it we are all really doing?… Afterall it is a Christian festival but for some it seems to have morphed into something utterly unrelated and by the way this is not an argument about religion, I am just interested in the psychology of it all.
…I am so grateful that the losing of my mother, my wonderful nurturing, funny, inspirational and much missed mum gave me the opportunity to completely re-evaluate what Christmas means to me.
Her not being here anymore meant that I couldn’t spend it with her the way we always had and at first, in the initial years after her death, Christmas was a strange time (this was before my own children came into the world). Then it became a time when I would try to re-create what we had, J and I had our gorgeous twins and life began to shine a bit again, but it was always inevitably different.
Just over a year ago when our twins were seven, and again Christmas was approaching, I became aware of lots of exchanges in conversation about ‘being ready for Christmas’ and what everyone would be BUYING and just the sheer time and energy that goes into all this amazed me.
I was also aware that no matter how many presents I got as a child on Christmas day, the expectation always seemed to be washed away by a kind of disappointment once they were all unwrapped. I had witnessed this a little bit in my own children too. Was this what I wanted to nurture in them? I wanted more for them.
It was beginning to dawn on me just how silly and mindless it all is, and commercially driven! I don’t want to raise children who only think of themselves and what they want, I don’t want to live in a society that thinks like that. Some might argue: well help them to go and choose a gift for someone else, because giving is better than receiving but I think they’re missing the point. Why do we have to show our love for each other by going out and purchasing something new, adding to an already overloaded, commercially driven world of too much material stuff!
(Click here for a fantastic Youtube video on that subject The story of stuff)
Is it really a good use of our time to go hunting on the high street for something to buy our loved one just because some invisible force tells us we should and on one particular day of the year? What would happen if we put that time and energy into demonstrating our love in other ways? Spending time together, giving our attention, listening, showing kindness.
There is another way.
Even when my mum was alive and life was never really questioned by me, I always hated to be asked on Boxing Day by some well meaning friend or aquaintence: “Did you have a nice Christmas?” On Boxing Day!? I felt disappointed that they felt it was all over, it was a lovely period of time where my family were all together, and I didn’t want it to end.
I realised that actually my fondest memories of childhood were not the material gifts I received, but the time spent with my family, with our dog Monty in our cosy house, together, playing games, laughing and loving. I am so grateful for those times and now know how lucky I was.
These days if someone asks me, what am I doing for Christmas, getting for Christmas or what the children are asking for for Christmas, I take a moment, knowing that I have a choice and a right to be authentically me and I reply: “Spending time together, being grateful, thinking of those less fortunate”. It seems odd to some and of course each of us have lived unique lives with unique influences, and each of us has a choice. You can do something different.
Joshua Becker inspires me on this subject, click here to read more from him http://www.becomingminimalist.com/
and here http://www.becomingminimalist.com/35-gifts-your-children-will-never-forget/
Imagine what could happen if everyone made these shifts in thinking. What if we all did something for those less fortunate at this time of year? A friend of mine’s teenage daughter has actually requested that her and her family give some of their time to help at a local soup kitchen this Christmas, admirable I say.
What are your thoughts? Have you been feeling the same? Do you enjoy ‘spoiling’ your loved ones with material things? Are you concerned your children will resent you if you try to make changes? How about holding a family meeting and asking how they’d feel about receiving less in exchange for doing more together as a family? Ask them what they’d like to do together? I’d love to hear how it goes…