I’m beginning to wonder if there is such a thing as Christmas Fatigue? It seems to have happened to me for the last few years, I begin December feeling festive, ready to celebrate the Christmas season but, by the time we are within a week of the actual Christmas I feel terribly weary of it all.
I really don’t want to seem like a Scrooge, I love Christmas time, the food, the down time, sharing gifts with my family. I love searching out presents for the boys, knowing how much joy they will be received with, anticipating their enjoyment for the day of Christmas and through the year; I love buying thoughtful gifts for my loved ones and sharing time with friends we don’t get to see enough. What’s not to love about all that?
Well that’s the thing, all of that is good and wonderful, all of that is what Christmas is all about. It’s the other stuff that starts to creep in, to intrude on my world and my vision of what it’s all about. It’s advert after advert (I barely watch tv but even I’m aware of it) telling us what we must have and desire. One slogan for a store is even “I want that”. Really? A common phrase in our house and one I grew up with is “I want doesn’t get”. For us it is a reminder to use nicer words to ask for something but I think the message actually runs a bit deeper, and is something that our society as a whole could benefit from thinking on.
“I want” is not enough. I know we are encouraged to think it is, to think that to ‘want’ is somehow a good thing but really, it isn’t. Want implies greed, it implies demanding more than we are due, it implies a lack of care for anything outside of that. It is the childish impulse we try to guide our children away from, to help them outgrow. Yet all around us grown adults work on a hamster wheel to fulfill the wants, while ignoring the needs; the genuine human impulses that are at the core of who we are and must be fed to keep us happy and healthy. It’s the fancy computer game/mobile phone/toy of choice wrapped up in a big red bow, but the absence of real awareness, time and care.
I’m not trying to lay the woes at the world under the christmas tree, I adore the process of sourcing and giving gifts, but it can be done with care and consciousness and really should be. We try to source as much as we can used, it saves us money and allows us to be generous with the kids’ whims. There are toys we would never have bought new that they’ve really enjoyed and things I would have invested in at 3 times the cost that have gathered dust, forgotten. The boys are not attached to things coming in a package, they just enjoy the thing itself and the fun it brings them.
I understand that not all things can be bought second hand ( if someone doesn’t buy new there would be no second hand!) but I think that we can all purchase with care and consider how these items will be used through the year. Is it a toy that encourages creativity? Will it bring joy and comfort to the receiver? Does it reflect your care and love? Or is it simply a tick on a list born out of a sense of obligation, given and received with no real love on either end?
Yesterday we spent the morning with one of our dear friends, she threw a craft party for the children, a chance to come together and create. Each child made several crafts and then they got on with the real business at hand, playing and making as much noise as possible. My friend opened up her home (and wallet) sharing what she had with others, presiding with kindness over each creation, each bobo, each question no matter how convoluted. All of these things were given with generosity and warmth with no thought of personal gain other than the chance to share time and laughter.
As I stood back and
sneakily snacked observed the children, I saw kids who were friends and strangers playing happily together, games invented, abandoned and returned to, noise being made both creatively and for the sake of it; Mums who’d never met chatted on the sofa and my own sweet boy entertaining a little girl with Down’s Syndrome just because he wanted to see her smile and because he really doesn’t notice the funny quirks that people ‘call difference’. All this happened because of one friend’s kind heart and willingness to share it with others. A gift indeed.
So when I hear “I want” blasting out of my computer screen I grit my teeth and wish that there was an advert exhorting us to be generous and kind with our time and hearts not just our wallets. I bite down on bitterness that this time of family has been hijacked by commercialism that preys on people’s love for one another, a love that is real and genuine and too precious be bought and sold. I feel angry. I really, really feel angry.
Then I do what I really ought to have done in the first place, hit mute and shrug it off. I remember my friends who give their time to teach their own and other children all sorts of wonderful things. I look forward to the gatherings of pals and kids that litter our social calendar, grateful for the communion it brings. I think of the time our loved ones take to call, or email or send a silly joke, to write on Facebook or send a festive card. I think of a year of hugs and visits and lots and lots of love. And that’s when I know that it’s all silly nonsense, that most people get it and that I’m lucky enough to be surrounded with people who know that the real gifts cannot be wrapped. That the real gift is the thought and love that went into the present under the tree, a token of the warmth, deeply felt, too important and too big to put into words.