Last week my old friend Sue Walters (we met in kindergarten) suggested joining in on a pact to prepare for the holiday season so that we don’t lose touch with our own values and priorities. There has been a small but growing movement to do this very thing. Over the years I’ve taught workshops about this topic, primarily drawing on a couple of great books (Unplug the Christmas Machine and Hundred Dollar Holiday) plus a growing number of websites, especially Center for a New American Dream.
How do you feel about the upcoming Christmas season? Pick the letter that most closely matches your feelings about the holiday.
Love it! I love everything about the season and I wouldn’t change a thing—not even the decorations going up in the mall the day after Halloween, or stores opening for Christmas sales on Thanksgiving.
Love Christmas, but I don’t always love how stressed and tired I get during the Christmas season.
Love some things, especially the idea of what Christmas is supposed to be about, like Peace on Earth and Joy and Love and happy family times, but I think it has gotten too commercialized and the fantasy of Christmas is too often better than the real thing.
I used to love Christmas but I’m just not feeling it this year, due to personal circumstances.
I wish I could spend the holiday season in a parallel Universe where I wouldn’t feel totally out of step with the culture.
If you answered “A” then you can probably save time and stop reading this right now. Everyone else can keep reading.
Christmas in America and much of the developed world has become captive to consumer culture. Virtually every form of media normalizes shopping, cooking, eating, drinking, decorating and partying up a storm during the entire month of December, and of course you are supposed to look great while doing it. Women feel pressure to turn into a clone of Martha Stewart. Adults feel pressure to express their love and appreciation with expensive gifts and cash, and to present these gifts in elegant packaging.
And then there are the social gatherings to navigate. I tend to enjoy work-related holiday parties and the chance to see my coworkers in a different light, but some folks find these gatherings awkward and overcompensate by getting drunk and damaging their standing at work. Family gatherings can also be a minefield. In most parts of the world the weather outside is frightful in December, which makes it tough to escape the aunt who keeps asking you WHEN you are going to finally settle down and get married.
For the next few weeks, between now and Thanksgiving, your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to take charge of your approach to Christmas—to create a list of wishes and turn them into a to-do list that allows you to make this a season of comfort and joy that fits you like a glove.
Here is my list, followed by a generic list that you can do yourself. Honestly it is completely worth it to do this list. It only takes a few minutes and it will be LIFE CHANGING! I promise or your money back.
My Christmas List by Denise
Stuff I love about Christmas
Holiday food and drink (in moderation)
(Some of the) parties
Stuff I dread about Christmas
How much it costs
Sense of obligation to buy gifts I can’t really afford for people who don’t really need them
Family drama (doesn’t happen every year, but when it does I am not a fan)
Stuff I hate about Christmas
Not able to be with my whole family (we are spread out and not all tech savvy)
CONSTANT ads that make it seem as if everyone else has a perfect home, perfect family and every new electronic device ever invented
Tacky mall decorations
When I travel it is kind of arduous at times
Stuff I am Meh! About at Christmas
TV holiday specials/special episodes (A Very Merry Stephen Colbert-y Christmas? Meh.)
Stuff I want to do more of at Christmas
Crafts and making gifts for loved ones
Writing actual letters to loved ones
Singing from the Messiah (want to go to a Messiah sing along, which is something I already do at home, as my family will attest)
Stuff I want to have more of at Christmas
Helping out less fortunate
Feeling spiritual and good
Stuff I want to do less of at Christmas
Feeling guilty that I don’t have more money to spend
Put projects off because of lack of time/funds
Stuff I want to have less of at Christmas
Trash I need to throw away (such as wrapping paper)
Unhealthy leftovers in the fridge
NOW, YOU TRY IT! Here you go, the categories. Get out a piece of paper or copy and paste and get journaling!