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More Is Less

December 13, 2013

The holiday season is here and all I hear is, “I’m not in the mood for it.” “I’m just not feeling it.”  “It’s a lot of stress.” It seems that everyone has a humbug stuck up their ass this year. Personally I love the holiday season—every holiday, mine, yours, and everyone else’s. I love every part of it except for one thing—the whole bitching and stressing thing.

Now I’m sure the economy, lack of jobs, health care, and a dozen other things are adding to this year’s humbutt, but all those things are directly tied to an insane notion that if we spend way more on gifts than we can really afford we will win some sort of contest most people won’t admit that we’re even in.

I don’t do it. I spend what I can afford to spend. Some years that may mean everyone on my list gets something really cool. Some it might mean I have to make all the presents I give, and some years I do this just because I want to. I don’t care what the other grandparents get the grandkids; I get them things I think they will like and that I can afford. I don’t try to outdo their parents; their parents should always get them the thing they like best. Anyone who loves me less on the merit of gifts I give them doesn’t really love me at all. A kid who asks for an absurdly-expensive present knowing that his parents aren’t working doesn’t need to learn that he’ll get whatever he wants no matter the cost. He needs to learn the valuable lesson to be happy with what you get.

People will stress about everything from the meal and decorations to (of course mostly) the presents. My dad used to do this. He’d make a huge deal out of the holidays. He’d decorate like crazy, shop for presents—though never more than he could afford—looking everywhere for just the right gift for everyone. Every year he had this Perfect Christmas in his head, and every year someone did something to piss him off and he wound up throwing a fit that ruined the day for everyone including himself.

See he wrote it to be one way, and then when it wasn’t that way he was immediately angry and resentful. He really had done a lot of work, it was obvious that no one appreciated the level of work he’d done, and no one was as interested in having a Perfect Christmas as he was.

So this is what I do on the holidays. I don’t spend more than I can afford. I decorate as much as I feel like decorating. I don’t worry too much about what day we celebrate as long as everyone who wants to get together can. I no longer spend any holiday with people who cause drama and go out of their way to make other people miserable. If someone you don’t like is going to be someplace and you know they are going to ruin the whole day why not just stay home and do something you really want to do?

Celebrate the holiday the way you want to. If you want to spend yourself into debt, then do it by all means, but don’t stress about it. No one is holding a gun to your head. If your children really will be horribly disappointed because they don’t get exactly what they want, then maybe they need to learn the hard, cold fact of life that sometimes you just don’t get everything you want—especially if what you want costs as much as a house payment. And here’s the thing, kids never want just one thing, and mostly they are happy to get anything at all. If they aren’t… Well guess what, folks? You’ve already raised a person who is never going to be happy because in real life you seldom get just exactly what you want.

If Dad had done less and just let perceived (and usually unintentional) insults go, we could have all had many happy holidays. As it was, most holidays were flawed with drama. Yet I still love the holidays because I have broken those patterns. You can, too.

There is a reason that there are so many holidays at this time of year. The days are short, and all of these holidays include bringing light into the darkest part of the year. The days are cold, and all of these different holidays are about getting together and sharing warmth. Make the family of your choosing. Maybe it’s about taking one from column A and two from column B, but family isn’t so much about who is blood-bound to one another but about people who love and support each other. Sometimes—many times—those people we are blood related to are the last people who should be in our lives, and you don’t have to spend the holidays with them.

Have the holiday you want to have the way you want to have it, but—whatever and whenever it may be—please enjoy the season.


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