Wednesday, December 12

What Christmas Isn't:

A few weeks ago, actually just a few days before Thanksgiving, Shawn and I went to Target to some groceries, but first we stopped to look at the Christmas stuff - because let's face it: I LOVE Christmas.  It's my most favorite time of year, generally speaking and often just wandering through the aisles, smelling the aroma of evergreen and cinnamon candles, seeing all the lights and trees and ornaments just puts me in a good mood.
I should point out that we don't spend a lot on holidays, and Christmas is no exception.  The shameful truth is this: I would spend more if I could.  (It's like when people say if they won the lottery, the first thing they'd do is donate half of it.  Some people would.  And I would donate A LOT.  But the really-real-very-first thing I would do is buy a new car. Then I'd set myself up in a lovely apartment and pre-pay the rent for a couple years. And THEN I would start the donation process. I'm not proud to admit this about myself, but it's true.)  Anyhow, the point is, I would spend more on Christmas if I had the means.  I would buy garlands to hang around the door, and I would string lights in all our windows.  I would invest in beautiful holiday throw pillows and perhaps a full set of the snowflake dishes I admire every single year. I would spend more time and money making my own holiday decor and trying new recipes (because contrary to popular belief, that shit ain't cheap or thrifty, yo).  I would donate more, I would actually have a holiday party or even two.


That is not our life.  Our life is one of scrimping, one of digging up change to make ends meet, one of frequent dinners of ramen noodles or soup, and most importantly, one of love and joy.  I recently heard on the radio that the "average" woman anticipates getting approximately $460 (I think that was the number? It might have been lower or higher by twenty bucks.) in gifts this year.  The "average" guy, who is evidently less materialistic, expects somewhere in the $300 range.  (I think it was $380, but don't quote me on that.)

To quote Sheila Broflovski:

I know I said I would spend more if I could afford more - but those numbers are insane! And those are the expectations of people?  (The article further went on to explain that a good guideline for giving to your spouse or S.O. was to simply calculate 1% of your annual income, and that's about right.)

Wh- wha - what?!

What the hell ever happened to just being grateful for what you were given?  I've seen so much of this from working in retail: the attitude that if you don't get me the right thing, you suck.  Dude, seriously?  When I was a kid - (God I sound old!) - our parents would ask us if there were any toys we particularly wanted, they would talk to us about gratitude, and they paid attention to what we really loved.  That is, they always knew that putting anything to do with words or books under the tree for little Becky or something to do with cars for my brother *Mick was going to be a safe bet. Because they knew what we liked and they talked to us.  But they didn't go over the top and the number one rule was: be grateful for what you got.  If you pitched a fit in my house as a kid, your presents got donated.  You didn't complain that the Barbie you got wasn't the right Barbie, you were grateful you got a frickin' Barbie and learned the importance of saying "Thank you."  We weren't treated the way Harry was by the Dursley's, but we certainly weren't given the Dudley treatment, either.

Christmas was special.  We knew gifts were coming, and that was something amazing.  It was an exciting holiday because we listened to music all day, ate tons of cookies, played in the snow, visited family, and our parents played with our toys with us.  It was all magic.  And to this day, some of the best gifts I've ever received have cost quite little and it was the heart behind them.  I honestly can't tell you what the "most expensive" or "biggest" gift or "biggest haul year" has ever been - but I do remember the things that have meant the most, I do remember the insane joy of opening up a Barbie Ferrari (which was the "big gift" that year.

So, back to the beginning:
Shawn and I are at Target and before we get our groceries, we are wandering through the holiday section, enjoying the patterns of gift paper and the trees and the displays of lights.  And there was of course, a woman there, with her approximately 4 year old daughter in the cart.  And the woman was walking through the aisles with the candy and the stocking stuffers (not the stocking stuffers I got as a kid, like pencils, a pad of holiday paper, crayons, a Barbie doll outfit, etc., but the more expensive ones that are marketed today).  So the woman picks up a dvd of some holiday movie running about $14.95 and waves it in front of her daughter.
"Autumn, do you want this in your Christmas stocking?"
Of course Autumn shouts "Yeah!"
And the mother throws it into the cart.
A few paces later, she picks up another fifteen dollar item and repeats this process.
During the time I spent at the end of the aisle admiring candles, the woman picked up no less than five items and asked her daughter "Do you want these in your stocking?" to each the girl replying "Yeah!" and them being thrown in the cart.
Okay, seriously?
The things wrong with this:
First and least painful:
Christmas is meant to be a SURPRISE for the kids.  It's one thing as an adult when your mother-in-law asks you what you want and you say "Okay, there is this one particular calendar I fell in love with at such-and-such a place, so that might be cool."  (True story.  I'll let you know if I get it.)
But as a kid, especially a young kid, half the magic of Christmas is the anticipation, the excitement, the wonder.
In the three minutes I spent admiring candles and making angry faces at this woman, she had just randomly and without even thinking about it dropped more on a 4 year old's stocking than many adults spend on other adults.  I'm not trying to be a jerk, but 4-year-olds need to unwrap pajamas, books, a stuffed animal, maybe some toys like dolls or action figures or lincoln logs that require actual imagination. They do not need dvd's. (Okay, maybe one of a cartoon or something.) But this is WHY children today have no imagination of their own; they've never played G.I. Joe and Barbie in the snow until it's well beyond dark.  They're too busy playing games on a smartphone.  (I once saw an article in a parenting magazine called "The best apps for toddlers" and my head nearly exploded.)
And this leads me to my third point:
There is no reason to spend that much money on a kid so young - at least not so blithely.  Already in this four-year-old-girl's eyes, there was no "Wow! I'm getting a dvd for Christmas! I am so lucky!"  It was already expectation and the sense that having lots of things thrown in the cart for her without second thought was standard practice.  This girl is going to grow up expecting her parents and then her spouse to spend not 1%, but 3 or 4% of their annual income on her Christmas presents.  My husband and I knew a woman whose 8-year-old son received an iPod Touch for his "big" gift - to update the iPod he already had, mind you.  And this kid runs around texting with his mom's smart phone and I have to marvel at this because: oh-my-freaking-God-that-shit-is-not-cheap!  I know it's everywhere, but really?  Really?  Does an eight year old need an iPod, let alone an iPod touch?  I was lucky to get my first "very own" stereo when I was eleven.  All-around, kids have no idea what things cost, they are handed everything on a silver platter, their lives have become so full of expectation that when they become adults, it's apparently normal to anticipate getting several hundred dollars worth of gifts for one holiday.  And while I love giving presents and yes, there is something super awesome about seeing a box wrapped in festive paper and - it's for me! - and unwrapping it to find out what's inside - yes, getting gifts is pretty fun, gifts are NOT the point of Christmas.  But that's what this girl was being taught. Kids seem to have no idea about the value of money, what it means to be told no, what gratitude is, and that you will not actually die if you don't have the newest version of whatever.

And more than anything, kids - and apparently a significant portion of adults - seem to have forgotten that whether you believe in/celebrate the birth of Christ or not, whether you tell your kids about Santa or not, whether you go all-out or have nothing to spare, Christmas is supposed to be a time of recognizing that there is still goodness in the world, trying to spread a little cheer, and mostly to be grateful for what we have and what we've been given.  In every way.


  1. Wonderful post babe, it's a great article pointing out that this nation has become nothing but a bunch of spoiled shits -- and that is putting it politely. Spot on!

  2. Love this. So completely true. I was in Verizon recently and overheard a manager (who was looking at an iPhone Hello Kitty cover) say that she wanted to get that for her daughter. The Verizon lady helping me said, "Oh! You got her the new iPhone?" and the other lady said she did. After the manager lady walked away I asked the regular lady (haha) how old that lady's daughter is...she said NINE OR TEN. I about barfed right then and there. What does a TEN year old need a CELL PHONE for, let alone an iPhone, let alone an iPhone5 or whatever just came out! Sickening. I have been resisting writing a similar post to yours this year, because I seem to always write a Christmas post that pisses people off. This year, I'm spreading my cheer by keeping my trap shut. Haha. Well done, friend. I wholeheartedly agree. :)

    1. I'm glad you liked it! I know, it squiggs me out how kids live these days. And not only do they NOT NEED this stuff, but how are the parents paying for it? My goodness.

  3. We get our kids one big gift and a few little things to go with it. We try to instill that Christmas is about giving and not receiving. And we definitely try to focus on the importance of family.

    1. Thank you for reading, Joe! And that sounds exactly like how Shawn and I grew up...on bigger thing or maybe one big thing for all the kids to share, and then a few smaller gifts. I'm sure you do a wonderful job with your kids, Shawn always speaks very well of you.

    2. ^one. D'oh! :)

  4. I totally agree with you, Becky! The whole Xmas consumerism thing has become pretty shameful. What happened to making festive handmade gifts??? Last year I made cookies and fudge as gifts, and as awful as it sounds, I was embarassed at times that this was all I had to give. WHY??? it sounds crazy now when I type it out??!!!! Anyways.... let's us old fashioned souls stick together and try to keep the Xmas spirit alive with good cheer and love.
    Here's wishing you a Very Merry Christmas Becky!

    1. Thank you, Trish! :) Thanks for stopping by!


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