Counter Culture Christmas

It’s Christmas morn (for another 4 minutes or so), and everyone at my house is watching Casino Royale. Because nothing says Christmas like James Bond.


I’m contemplating the differences in this Christmas compared to those past. Ryan was the designated elf who sifted through the presents to hand them out–and there seemed to be fewer this year. Or smaller. I’m not sure…maybe both. Al and I purchased our gifts for one another early. One we’ve taken advantage of already, and the other (a massage) will be used at some point soon. Ryan only asked for a handful of things, and was remarkably easy to shop for. Al passed around his Amazon wish list. I asked for people to donate to a charity of my choosing.


So I didn’t have any presents under the tree. Well…except for one. Dad found a present that he said he couldn’t pass up–a very special one that reminded him of Mom and I. And so I had a present. A very special, meaningful, bring tears to my eyes present.


It occurred to me on Christmas Eve–and again this morning–that I wouldn’t have a present to open. And I felt, very honestly, conflicted by that. Growing up, even when things were tight, I never knew it on Christmas morning. My parents were always very generous with me. Now, as an adult, I like lavishing gifts on others. And perhaps I did that more for my extended family this year than my immediate one. But I’m OK with that. The immediate family gathered here is quite content with their gifts–and James Bond.


My point is, this Christmas this year doesn’t feel lavish–in terms of what was under the tree. But maybe that’s the way it should be. It is, after all, our very consumerist, marketing society that suggests the importance of all the stuff. And perhaps we’ve taken a page from the playbook of the first Christmas, where lots of extravagant planning and events came together–and we want to re-create that magic. Nothing wrong with that.


I did feel a little let down by the lack of present opening or piles of wrapping paper after the scourge. But only a little. Because it was fun to make my child happy and give fun and meaningful gifts to others–and receive a meaningful gift in return. And to know that a children’s home in another part of the world can pay part of their heating bill.


In talking with a friend this year, she shared that she wanted family to give her children experiences as opposed to stuff. I like that idea. And I’m gonna steal it. We actually were on the receiving end of that this year, with friends giving the three of us an all day pass to everything the US National Whitewater Center in Charlotte has to offer. And we can’t wait.


So more of that. More experiences. More giving to people who really need it. More giving meaningful stuff. Less stuff overall. Because I think that’s more of what this season is about. Even if I am in the minority…on this point.


Where I fell into the majority: I did buy into the busyness of the season. I did accept my limitations and scrap the Christmas letter. However, the marathon cookie baking took place–even more so at marathon pace this time. Everyone in my house has been sick and I feel like I’ve been steamrolled by the whole thing. I was again the one to wrap the presents, bake the cookies, do the grocery shopping–and the present shopping/ordering. Begrudgingly at times. Which is not at all what Christmas should be about.¬†Apparently, I need to take a page from a different playbook on that one. Hopefully I will. Next year.


I keep hoping that the more I try to change my approach to Christmas, the more natural it will feel to do so.


One thought on “Counter Culture Christmas

  1. Funny how this Christmas seemed to bring joy and warmth to our family in other ways than what was brightly wrapped beneath our tree:

    – Actually picking out the “perfect” Christmas tree
    – Putting up decorations at a new world record of one day (really only a few hours)
    – Recreating the Olive Garden commercials with our buds from CUDS
    – Celebrating a meaningful Christmas Eve at our new church home
    – Celebrating Christmas Eve with 9 holes of golf (oh wait, that was me) BUT STILL having some fun with our neighbors (whom last year this time we didn’t know existed)
    – Cooking a full meal for our in-town family and not getting worked up or stressed about it
    – Having snow on Christmas (HIT IT BING CROSBY!!!!)

    I have to say, those gifts don’t get unwrapped, but they do lend to your new focus of experiences. And frankly, they’re experiences I’ll cherish long after anything that can be put at the foot of the tree.

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