An opportunity to spend time with family?
A chance to indulge in good food, good wine and quality company?
If you are a Christian, a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus?
… Or a time to go nuts spending money that you haven’t got, in order to gain perceived approval from family and friends?
Sadly, the latter is a common Christmas theme, for most of us.
Every year, I say “it will be different this time”. I resolve to start doing my Christmas shopping in September, and to not stress over presents. I’ll just get token presents for everyone, I say, and I’ll feel good about that. I’ll even spend time making thoughtful yet frugal gifts for people, despite the fact that I am somewhat creatively challenged.
And every year, as Christmas approaches, I become racked with the same cold fear that I do every year; the same sinking feeling of dread that shouldn’t be a part of the lead-up to such a wonderful time of year.
I love Christmas. I love the songs, the decorations, the weather, the food, the celebration. I love making my home a magical place and seeing the glow of the Christmas tree lights reflected in my children’s sweet faces, full of excitement and wonder. But every year, my Christmas spirit is crushed by the worry over gift-giving.
But really, my family and friends couldn’t care less about gifts. They don’t care if we can only afford to give very cheap gifts, or if we can’t give gifts at all. And yet still I worry; still I feel like I have failed the ones I love.
I am angry at our society; at the consumerism that drives the nation at this time of year. I wish I could convince my family and friends not to give gifts at all at Christmas, so that we can simply enjoy each others’ company without any perceived pressure. Last year, instead of individual presents for everyone, I slaved over a hot stove for days to create delicious brownies, biscuits and mince pies. We filled bottles with home-made sloe gin and created hampers for our families. They went down well, but I still felt guilty when unwrapping the gifts they had given me. What? How is that possible? How could I still feel like I hadn’t made enough effort, even though I had worked my big mama-butt off for days to create wonderful home-baked gifts for my loved ones?
The fact is, we live in a world that values material goods over everything else, and this fact becomes so apparent at Christmastime. No matter how much our families reassure us that Presents Aren’t What Christmas Is About, we cannot help but scold ourselves over our inability to provide Awesome Gifts. Our sense of self-worth is entirely tied to how much money we are able to spend.
The stress of it all is enough to make me want to boycott Christmas altogether, and that makes me sad. It frustrates me that, in order to fully enjoy my favourite time of year, I have to get myself into debt in order to provide presents that are ‘good enough’ for the imposed standards of the world we live in.
For this reason, I vow never to make my children feel as though they should give gifts on ANY occasion, unless they want to. I don’t want them to grow up feeling as though material goods are the only way to show we care. However, I feel that this is inevitable to an extent, considering the world we live in. Sigh.