Christmas is all around us. Literally. Like everywhere I look!
The tinsel is hanging in the windows, the trees are decorated in the malls, the shops have lights strewn about and the supermarket has stocking ‘fillers’ at the end of every aisle.
I love Christmas. I love summer. I love long nights at the beach and cold beers after a long run in the sun. I love seafood for dinner, eaten in the backyard with prawn shells being cracked. It’s my favourite time of the year. Long relaxing stress-free days.
And yet, when I look around me – all I see is stress.
The parents are concerned about getting the perfect gifts. The drivers are so focused on their shopping list that they are drifting across lanes of traffic. The shoppers are so worried about what to get Granny that they just go with the gift pack from the chemist. Again. The people who have already purchased pretty much all of their Christmas Dinner and put it in the freezer and yet still worry they have missed something.
How did we turn such a beautiful time of the year into something so stressful?
What I don’t love about Christmas is the rubbish. How many gifts just end up in the bin? Sure, they might sit in the pantry for 6months before their use-by-date expires, or they sit in the wardrobe until a global pandemic forces us all to Marie-Kondo our homes whilst in lockdown. How many times have you said ‘thanks, I love it’ knowing you will never wear it, eat it, display it? Why do we continue to buy each other ‘stuff?’ Then there is the food wastage because we feel like ‘it's not Christmas’ unless we have every roast bird on the table, plus every condiment, and every dessert and every side – for 4 people. I myself am a lover of leftovers, don’t get me wrong, but I see so much food wasted at Christmas time that it just makes me sad.
When did Christmas become about the gifts? Why can’t we just savour that we have some time off work (for those lucky enough to have time off) and enjoy some long summer days with those we love and cherish what Christmas means to us. For some it’s the religious holiday, for some it’s the first break they have had all year, for some, it’s a time to be able to see family. For many, it’s a time of immense sadness and loneliness. The day should never be about stressing about presents, stressing we have cooked the right meal or have the right food. I am grateful to spend a day with my husband and friends, eat what we have and drink wine together; sharing stories and laughs.
My husband and I stopped buying presents for each other about 15yrs ago. We don’t even bother with a card – it just ends up in recycling. Some think this is sad, and it shows we don’t want to ‘spoil’ each other, others understand that we don’t need to buy each other ‘stuff’. I would much prefer to spend our money sharing adventures than buy more clutter for our little apartment. Birthdays now are about long weekends away, or a fishing trip or a holiday to visit friends. We got married at the perfect time of year to holiday so that our anniversaries would be holidays, not gifts. At Christmas time we go away together instead of buying presents. These adventures together mean so much more than any gift could ever give us. We have travelled to Europe and had a white Christmas, we have spent one year at a pub making friends with strangers over a seafood buffet, we have joined friends and families for their celebrations. All have been beautiful. If I see a gift that I know he will like, I get it there and then – not wait for Christmas. The beauty is in the spontaneity.
This Christmas – slow down. Who cares if you don’t get everyone a gift? Mix it up this year and tell everyone there is a no-gift policy. If someone really wants to spend money, ask them to donate it to charity instead. I know of a family that have their little boy fill his Santa sack with toys a few months before Christmas and then donate them to local kids – the rule is that Santa doesn’t visit you unless you first donate a sack full of toys. This was started the year he was born and for 13yrs it’s been a beautiful family tradition. They tell their friends and family not to buy their child toys, for he doesn’t need them. If you must buy him something, give him an experience he will enjoy – better yet, come and visit and give him the best gift of all – time. Kids don’t need all those toys to make them happy – they would be happy just to spend Christmas morning playing with you outside, instead of watching you stressing about the perfect table decorations for lunch.
Christmas should NOT be this stressful. Life should not be this stressful. Slow down and savour the adventures rather than buy all the stuff.
PS. Nobody likes those cheap chemist bathroom packs. Just stop buying them!