My mother loved the holidays. While she feigned poverty the other 364 days of the year, (“If you need new sneakers, you’ll just have to wait until Christmas.”), she pulled out all the stops on December 25. Christmas was when we got soda pop – two bright red cases of Pop Shoppe, filled with Cream Soda and Black Cherry, Lemon Lime and Orange. Christmas was when bowls of Humpty Dumpty potato chips magically appeared. We were treated to utterly unnecessary over-the-top gifts that she would never have bought us at any other time. There was the Magic Eight Ball (“signs point to Yes!”) and the year she gave my brother and me “dancing daisies”, fake flowers that “danced” when music was played. Think of them as the precursor the Billy the Singing Bass. Then, like the Christmas songs that saturate the airwaves in the days leading up to the big day, it all vanished by Boxing Day. All that was left was a mild Pop Shoppe hangover and sweet memories.
Like my mother, I love the holidays. Unlike her, I lean toward less consumption, not more. As time marched on (and my dancing daisy stopped dancing and simply drooped, destined for landfill), I became less enamored with the orgy of consumption that marked the holidays.
I resolved to create holidays that reflected who I was…not who some marketing person thought I should be. It wasn’t easy. When I suggested we cut back on gifts, my in-laws responded as if I’d suggested we eat my children for Christmas dinner. I was accused of not “enjoying” shopping for others. When I suggested to my own family that perhaps they could scale back a bit on the gifts for the kids (our family room was starting to resemble Toys R Us), my mother responded as if she didn’t hear me and simply continued to bombard my kids with gifts.
I had to recognize that I was asking people to shift perspective, which requires time. I stood firm, offering up gifts of homemade antipasto and donations to relevant charities that reflected the recipients’ interest. I eased people into the notions of fair-trade and co-op produced goods, organic and charitable. I felt good about where my money was going…and good about where my gifts were going.
It took awhile, but a few years ago, they all got it. The result is a holiday that now features a lot less wrapping paper and a lot more laughter. It’s marked by less debt and richer relationships. Less frenzy, more friends. And, while we still indulge in organic soda pop and potato chips, this year, there won’t be a dancing daisy to be found.