Last year, I created a challenge for myself called Make it or Bake it. The concept is self-evident; I either make or bake all my Christmas gifts. This year, I informally decided to do the same thing. However, my list of people to make/bake for has significantly decreased. Last year, I baked bread for my bosses/coworkers, my ex-boyfriend, my neighbour, and my parents. This year, I’ll be planning some Christmas goodies for my parents only, and making a handmade present for my boyfriend. Two weeks ago, he told me he would rather that I not spend any money on a present for him, so I settled for a time consuming project o’ love. He’s a keeper, folks!
My favourite part of the holidays stopped being about the gifts right about the time when I left university. Even though my parents have been exceptionally and unnecessarily generous this year (combining a birthday/Christmas gift to help me buy a couch), I am most looking forward to going home to the farm, relaxing, and spending some time with my family. The idea of gifts takes a back seat to seeing Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, and pets. And who needs gifts when you have delicious farm cooking, like my mom’s homemade pumpkin cheesecake, last year’s hit.
Now that I’ve removed myself from the commercialism of Christmas, I can honestly say I appreciate and enjoy it more. Sure, the thought of overheating in my winter coat while waiting an hour in line to buy a book does bring a certain sense of nostalgia. But instead of using my six-foot height to squish the shorter beings who have the misfortune of getting in between me and the cash register, I’ll be in my apartment, curled up on my couch, working on my Christmas projects and watching Buffy.
When I was growing up, Christmas was simple. For one thing, we used the word “Christmas,” not holidays. Even though I come from an agnostic/hardcore-atheist parental pairing, we still sang carols, had Nativity scenes, and watched all the Christmas specials. Mom would bring out her giant Christmas tupperware containers, filled to the brim with garlands, wreaths, and red and green stuffed animals. Christmas shopping also played its part. Every year, I’d take some of my savings (usually no more than $40) and go to the mall. I’d squeeze that $40 into gifts for four family members, how I don’t know. But the joy of shopping for my family was something I looked forward to.
As an adult, I think it’s all too common to get swept up in Holiday Mania. Naturally, there’s the shopping (and the thought of braving a mall right now makes me shudder), cooking, baking, cleaning, hosting, decorating, etc.
But let’s not forget the point of the holidays. For me, Christmas is about spending the darkest day of the year with the people I love, while eating as much food as I can stand. It’s about relaxation and revitalization. It’s not about what I receive, or what I give, it’s how I feel. It’s a celebration of the changing of season. It’s about looking at all the gorgeous lights decorating the houses, or giving a little extra to a favoured charity. Presents feel like a distraction as opposed to a necessary ingredient.
So my holiday message to you is: do what brings you joy. If spending money is going to stress you out, don’t let the pressure of the season get to you. Your loved ones will be much happier knowing that you’re not secretly panicking as you hand over the gift you couldn’t really afford. Buy something small and thoughtful, or better yet, make it. Another gift alternative could be rounding up a bunch of friends and having a skating party. Have a thermos of hot chocolate at the ready, and savour the memories. If your friends are anything like me, they’ll appreciate that more than a set of headphones.
Don’t look for me in the malls. I’ll be too busy strapping on my skates, chasing after my own little piece of joy in the spirit of Christmas.