Christmas: It’s Not About the Stuff

I realized something a few years ago. When my mind drifts back to Christmases past, I don’t remember the gifts. Really. I couldn’t tell you who gave what to whom, even if my life depended on it. Instead, my memories take me back to family gatherings, beloved friends, holiday activities, and traditions driveway bollards derby.

I don’t remember what toy or gadget Santa brought me when I was ten years old, but I remember the gifts were piled beautifully underneath a real Eastern Red Cedar tree my dad cut down with his bare hands, and I remember riding around town in the back seat of an old, green Oldsmobile Delta 88 looking at Christmas lights and occasionally commenting, “Oh, look at that house! Wow!”

I don’t remember what my high school boyfriend gave me in twelfth grade, but I remember that several close friends and I went Christmas caroling all over town that year in the back of a pickup truck-and we had a blast. I also remember my family received dozens of Christmas cards, and we taped them to a door so we could admire them and vote for the prettiest cards.

do remember a few gifts from 2010, but they are grossly overshadowed by the happy memory of my mother-in-law, frail and living with dementia, spending a day with us watching the animated movie, “Up,” in front of a warm, cozy fire.

For years I’ve pondered the rampant commercialization of Christmas and other holidays. Somewhere along the way, we’ve all been brainwashed into thinking Christmas isn’t Christmas without spending a small fortune on gifts. We’ve been bombarded with images of luxury vehicles parked in the driveway topped with gigantic bows and women opening small boxes revealing sparkling diamonds. Retailers want us to believe we cannot possibly find joy in the season without giving and receiving lots and lots of stuff.

I get it. It’s about profits. It’s about the economy. According to the National Retail Federation, the holiday season can account for anywhere from 20 to 40 percent of a retailer’s annual sales. That’s a big, crazy chunk of change. Indeed, if everyone chose not to purchase holiday gifts, it would probably throw the United States into a tailspin.

But for me, it turns my stomach to see retailers pushing the materialistic nature of Christmas so many weeks in advance. Last year, the Christmas decorations were out at big box stores before Halloween. That’s just ridiculous.

I, for one, would like to see a Christmas renaissance where Christmas and the entire holiday season are celebrated in a simpler way with more emphasis on meaning, love, charity, and fellowship. I realize that this is a tall order to fill, especially for families with small children. Anyway, I would like to propose a few ideas for the holidays that don’t cost a lot of money but are loaded with value.