In Which We Ponder Holiday Shopping…

Little Rocco in Snow
Baby Rocco in the Snow

“And he puzzled three hours, till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! “Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more!”

– from How The Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Suess

Years have a way of running into one another, one much like the next until, something happens, it is completely outside of your ability to control and all you can do is accept.  This happened to us one Christmas and was so meaningful that it was the catalyst of many small changes leading ultimately to a major change affecting every single aspect of our lives.

It was pretty simple actually. And an amazing relief.  We were busy as usual with hectic jobs and three young girls in a feverish frenzy of consumerism and excitement, busily circling their gift wishes in the circulars coming daily in the mail. And, most, if not all of those wishes would be granted. Plus other wishes they didn’t even know they had. Just like all the families we know.

This one special year, we did our entertaining on Christmas Eve and the girls were bundled off to their mother’s so they could wake up with her on Christmas morning. We enjoyed our party, and after sending everyone off we cleaned everything up and went to bed, pleasantly tired.  The next day would be the usual obligatory driving around so no one felt snubbed – you know how it goes.

But, while we slept, outside the kind of fairytale snow that made everything silent and sparkly and magical was piling up.  It just kept snowing… and snowing…. and snowing some more.  There would be no going anywhere.  All Christmas day there was no traffic, no company, no visiting, no telephone, nothing. Beautiful, blessed, silent nothing. The snow kept up steadily all day; we had plenty of wood for the fire, all the best leftovers from Christmas Eve’s party, snuggly blankets and old movies on TV.

Bill, Charley and I bundled up and went for a muffled walk – no harsh winds, just lovely, dry glittering snowflakes and knee deep snow.  Simply wonderful and, to this day, the most holy and special Christmas Day I have ever spent.  We were grateful, at peace and filled with joy – just what the holidays are supposed to be.  And, because it wasn’t a choice, it was a situation beyond our control, I didn’t feel even the tiniest twinge of guilt.

Each year since, remembering the contentment of that day, I have simplified my holidays a little more.  I cook one or two fewer things, I avoid the mall and I give less from a sense of obligation and more because I really like giving things away. I spend less on disposable things and favor experiences over possessions.  But, that’s what pleases me.  You know what pleases you – don’t let us bully you into feeling guilty about the things that bring you true holiday joy.  I remember the key to my wholehearted enjoyment of our special Christmas was the complete lack of guilt.  I try each year to stick to my guns and not be shamed or guilted into following the herd. I admit, sometimes I’m strong, sometimes I’m not.

I’ve discovered a few funny and helpful things I’d like to share in keeping with paring down the holidays.  I got a kick out of the idea of the Brooklyn Free Store, where everything is available for the taking and nothing is for sale. Really, check it out here.

Then, I found this catalog of things money can’t buy. The best part is it’s open for you to add your priceless ideas. I’d love to extend the challenge to you to fill this thing up with all our favorite things that can’t be bought at any price. Take 5 and do it, then share it with your friends and ask them to do it too!  Consider it a challenge.  Let’s make this catalog a runaway success.  I’ll go first…

Enjoying the holidays is not just about a single day, but the days of preparation leading up to it.  I’ll enjoy every toasty minute I spend cooking for friends and family this year.  I think of the people I care about while I make and wrap their gifts and feel warmth and gratitude to be so fortunate.

I refuse to brave the mall for anybody and I’m not traveling anywhere.  I’m not going to spend time on the phone or with my computer and I’m going to eat anything I want.  I’m going to support my local indie shops (learn why this is so important here) and enjoy the whole  Christmas season.

What about you? Comment here to share how your family makes the holiday special.

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