Thursday, December 20, 2012

Buying Christmas.

I saw this plastic container of bland plastic Christmas ornaments and was struck by the label. If Christmas tree ornaments have no meaning for you, why have them? In fact, isn't that true of anything you own? Why have anything in your life that doesn't serve a purpose or bring you joy?

Around here, people will say things like, "I have to wait for my check before I can buy Christmas," or "We aren't even going to be able to buy Christmas this year." Well. I'm not even a theist, but I know one thing - Christmas is not about the gifts. A patient was telling me that her middle schooler presented her with a list that included an iPhone, an iPad, a laptop and a big screen television. She was agonizing because this kid still believed in Santa (or claimed to, anyway), and she didn't want to spoil the magic. However, they are behind on their mortgage and other bills. In my gentle, indirect way I said, "I think it's high time you introduced your daughter to reality."

I buy my kids Christmas gifts, of course, but not extravagant ones. I have a small budget for gifts and I wouldn't even consider going into debt for them. They told me this week that their favorite thing was the stockings I fill. And trust me, there's nothing expensive in them. Our focus is on the time we get to spend together during the holidays. My sons were telling me that they have classmates who routinely get pricey electronics and large amounts of cash ($1000 sometimes!) from their parents at Christmas. I said, "Wow. Well, I'm afraid that's just not possible for me." My older son replied, "Yeah, but their parents aren't paying for them to go to college." I thought back to my patient who was inclined to cave into the demands of her child and yet would not be able to send her children to college. Buy Christmas? Not in this house.

(A song composed of angry tweets from disappointed kids last Christmas.)

34 comments:

  1. ack...its what has been ingrained...the expectation of christmas and it gets ever more expensive if you buy into it...we live on a small budget so we have little option but it is also a blessing...pretty sick all the debt that gets piled on to fit the holiday and people will live with forever...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And so many people do buy into it. To me, that makes it an anti-Christmas.

      Delete
  2. Very good post. The words "buy" and "Christmas" should not be used together but of course they are too often. Love and Christmas go together well. It's very sad that many feel and give in to this pressure. I can still remember things I didn't get for Christmas. You mature and get over it. The vast number of things in life that are worse will shock these kids.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, exactly. And family and Christmas. Peace and Christmas. And so on.

      Delete
  3. i have never heard the phrase "buy christmas" before but i gotta say reading it caused a visceral reaction. ghastly. i'm with you. i think about as extravagant as i will get is possibly helping my daughter get new tires for her car since she just found out they are nearly out of a safe amount of tread.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think it's a local expression. And said, straight-faced, by the same people who talk about "the real meaning of Christmas."

      New tires are not an extravagance - that's a parent helping a child with a safety necessity.

      Delete
  4. I don't make a lot of money, never have. Every year, although I know it is foolish, I worry about Christmas. I admire your attitude very much.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's been an evolving attitude for me, and each year I pare down a little more on what I do. I want it to be a holiday that is genuinely peace-filled.

      Delete
  5. Thank you for this post! I was considering writing something very similar, but to be honest, I didn't want to be criticized for paying for our kids' college educations! For years, we suffered through the "we are the only ones who don't" syndrome (have cell phones, then have texting, then have ipods, then ipod touches, then smartphones). It truly never ends. I think they are beginning to finally get it, as young adults. It's odd because they never cared about Ugg boots, Abercrombie clothes and expensive tennis shoes. But the lure of technology seems to be overpowering for this generation. Great topic for a post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Who would criticize you for paying for your children's college educations? It's a great gift if you can help. My grandfather helped me, an I am forever grateful to him.

      My kids occasionally make jokes about their "ghetto phones," but I think they're glad to have them even if they aren't smart phones. In return I try not to talk about how when I was their age...

      And fortunately, they are actively averse to wearing clothes from A&F, Aeropostale, and so on.

      Delete
  6. I was reading in a book recently that holiday gift giving as we know it is a relatively new custom; that Christmas in years gone past were hardly celebrated; some businesses didn't even close unless it was a Sunday. I think we've blown it all out of proportion with gift giving and holiday decorating and this and that and stress ourselves out to the point we don't even actually truly enjoy it when it gets here. I think your approach is a great one to keep it simple and to pare down. I tend to spoil my son more than I should, but we don't go into debt and he doesn't get everything on his list, but really the best thing is just to be together and spend time together.

    betty

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Balance - it's all about balance. Any parts of it you love, are fine. I love having a tree up, so I do that. I do't love climbing a ladder to string lights along the roofline, so I don't do that. But what I most like is getting to this point and then just relaxing and spending time with people I love. And not hitting January with debt!

      Delete

  7. We always get lots and lots of gifts, but everyone knows there won't be anything real expensive under the tree. It's the fun of unwrapping we get into. This is a little ironic as we don't use wrapping paper. We use reusable bags.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I mostly use reusable bags too. Much easier.

      Delete
  8. EMB...although we were not strapped for money, christmas was not extravagant by any means. I was lucky, my girls had scholarships, and my expenses for their schooling was minimal. The oldest, on getting a full ride at cal tech wanted a '56 chevy pickup for high school graduation, and i did humor that.
    Anyway, since their mom died, the christmas gift to them was a trip at christmas...we spent christmas in NY, Chicago, LA, Victoria BC, and other places. Perhaps we didn't want to be home then and be reminded of who was not with us. The most memorable was watching them surf on christmas eve day, if not the most christmas-like.
    Enjoy christmas.
    Cheers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. EMB?

      I am thankful that I'm able to help my kids go to college and I'm not opposed to giving gifts. I'm more opposed to making the holiday about spending.

      Delete
    2. Had my fingers wrong on the keyboard, was going to correct it, but...

      Delete
    3. Ah. Thought it was an acronym I'd not encountered.

      Delete
  9. Loved the video you posted... so funny! We do a pretty minimal Christmas too. We do get gifts for the kiddo, but my husband and I don't even bother to buy each other anything. We just spend time together and enjoy each other's company. WTF, I wanted an iPhone! Hahah!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I saw that video last year and periodically the song gets stuck in my head. It's both funny and sad!

      Delete
  10. That phrase of "Buy Christmas" is used here too. A brag is "I just finished buying Christmas". I've simplified to nothing except a few candles, a roaring fire and good eats. and the odd homemade or used gift if called upon.
    Bliss.
    XO
    WWW

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When the kids move on to having Christmas morning with their own families, I imagine I'll pare down even more.

      Delete
  11. I'm afraid my parents went all out for Christmas and we do the same thing however we would never go into debt for it. Our credit cards are used but always paid in full each month. As long as we can do it we will but before you know it we will be retired and a budget will definitely begin!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Paying your credit cards in full each month is one of the best financial rules going.

      Delete
  12. I have spent more on gifts this year than i ever have. I doubt we will be able to be so generous again. I have no regret . I had a great time and I'm excited about the gifts I'm giving

    My credit card has jumped from a zero balance to ten feet high :-) I have no right to be surprised and I'm not :-)

    I, cs, also love love stockings. If I had one candle, one pointseta and one stocking I would be quite content


    And thank you universe for children and good friends to love ♥

    Merry, cs
    Love
    kj

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can't even remember that last time I had a stocking myself. But no credit card balance, so I'm thankful for that.

      Delete
  13. Somehow it seems very straightforward to me. Christmas is about being with those you love. Seems very hard to understand for some people these days.

    ReplyDelete
  14. This is how children need to be brought up.

    Within limits: only within limits can you really appreciate the joy of the extraordinary.

    Without a reference3 point, nothing means anything.

    xo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I find myself wondering how these kids will manage when they are out on their own and the world isn't showering them with everything their hearts desire.

      Delete
  15. Your approach to Christmas is an entirely sensible one. Of course spending time together is more important than giving fancy gifts. I remember many highly enjoyable childhood Christmases when my sister and I got very modest and inexpensive gifts - and stockings - and didn't feel at all hard done by or deprived.

    These kids who demand the latest ludicrously-priced piece of technology as if money grows on trees are indeed out of touch with reality.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kids who demand pricey technology don't spring up out of a vacuum. Somebody taught them that it's acceptable to be that demanding.

      Delete
  16. That warmed my heart to read this post!
    I'm sure you will have the best Christmas with your family around you and it is completely unnecessary to get into debt over it.
    Maggie x

    Nuts in May.

    ReplyDelete