Bah, Humbug!

There’s a certain time when it starts to feel like Christmas for me. Sometimes I can be walking around K-Mart and looking at decorations but it just feels silly; it’s like October and Christmas seems an age away. Plus where would I store them for three months? But around late November I start to get into it more. I can usually tell when; I’ll be out shopping and at some stage the Christmas music starts and I don’t feel like destroying the speakers!

I enjoy the Christmas season but I’m one of those people who gets quite stressed in the lead up. I like getting my shopping done early (1st week of December) but inevitably someone buys something I’ve already bought them, so back it goes. I hate the queues; it’s not the waiting I hate, but the people who don’t wait. They jump the queue like they think they’re better than the rest of us commoners. And back out on the streets, the crush is five people deep and it’s a game of dodgeball just to avoid the elbows and backpacks. Ah, the joys of city life…

What I like about Christmas is more the feeling than the day itself. I wouldn’t say everyone is happy and nice, but there’s definitely a different feeling when you’re out. Houses have their trees up and suncatchers in the windows, the shopping centres have their decorations and lights, children are excited, the music’s playing in the background… it’s just a nice feeling that doesn’t happen any other time of the year.

Recently I’ve had a bit of a think about what Christmas means to me. I’ve outgrown the child’s excitement that comes with the day, and I’m more spiritual than religious. So now it’s more about spending time with my family, and the message that comes with the season; peace, joy, hope, a worthy message no matter what you believe. The problem that often seems to come with it, though, is that it can be an anticlimax. Have you ever seen Chevy Chase’s Christmas Vacation? That’s one of my favourite holiday movies and I love that everything he tries to do for his family just goes wrong! The tree’s too big, the lighting won’t work, his bonus is cancelled, the tree burns down… it’s not so far off real life. It doesn’t take much for family feuds to resume or a meal to be a disaster and all the fuss just doesn’t seem worth it. What lingers for me is the Bam earthquake on Boxing Day 2003, and the tsunami the following year… when 200,000 people die so suddenly, everything else drops away.

But at the same time perhaps that makes the message more important. The idea that we can live in peace, that we can celebrate something that brings so many people joy, that family does matter to us, is a wonderful message. Much as I don’t like the shopping and commercialism, I love the joy it brings to children; I love seeing their eyes light up when they see Santa or open a present on Christmas morning, or when the carols are on TV and families sit together and sing along. That’s what I like about the season.

This year I’ve decided I’m going to do things a bit differently. I’m going to cut back on a lot of the things that stress me out and enjoy the festive feeling instead. I’m staying away from the crowds and cutting back on the amount I spend (never a lot anyway) and the food, and I’m going to listen to more of the music. I just bought Sarah McLachlan’s Wintersong and I’m looking forward to rewatching some of The Simpsons Christmas episodes. Something I do each year is to add up the amount I’ve spent and make a similar donation to charity. This year I’m going to do that through Global Giving. It’s a great site and connects users to over 450 independent charity projects around the world; the donations are spread out at a grassroots level, so they can really make a difference to an entire community (orphanages, schools, health programs). I ‘ve written about it before and I think it’s well worth supporting.

Other than that it’s going to be much the same as always. A salad on Christmas day, some time with family and friends, a mince pie here and there… I’m sure there’ll still be some of the stresses I hate so much, but hopefully it’ll be more balanced! What do you think? Do you get carried away or is it all a bit of a “bah, humbug!” moment? I’ve always said Ebenezer was misunderstood! šŸ˜‰

7 thoughts on “Bah, Humbug!

  1. I had heard of Global Giving before somewhere and I think it’s an excellent idea. I don’t think I will be able to afford giving anything extra though.

    Have you ever watched the Simpsons Christmas speech? It was done for Channel 4 in the UK a few years ago and is well worth watching!

    CJ: I like supporting charities particularly at this time of year, but I’ve learnt to be a bit dubious about some of them and where the money goes… I think Global Giving is great because you’re helping people at a more direct level, and it’s a good idea for gifts too as you’re involving them the process; it’s not like you’re just doing something in their name.

    I have some of the Simpsons Christmas DVDs, but I’ve never seen the speech… didn’t even know there was one! Is it like a spoof of the Queen’s Christmas message? Sounds like fun! I’ll have to look for it now. šŸ˜›

  2. I love Christmas, but I used to work with someone who seemed to look forward to becoming depressed at that time. He revelled in it, bored us silly with it, wouldn’t shut up about it. He talked more about Christmas than anyone else, and it was all “Christmas is so in your face! It just never stops!” Of course, he was what never stopped. Finally, one day I snapped.
    He was saying, “Did you know that at Christmas time the rate of suicides increases?”
    and I replied, “Yes, Steven. It’s because of people like you.”

    He did pipe down after that. Merry Christmas, everyone one!

    CJ: It seems like there are people like that everywhere this time of year; the closer it gets to Christmas, the worse it gets! Maybe all the fuss just doesn’t bring out the best in people? šŸ˜‰

    I like Christmas too, but sometimes I like making people think I’m a bit of a scrooge. I think people can take it too seriously and it’s good to keep things level. I convinced someone I’d cancelled Christmas once only for them to realise I was having them on when they got a Christmas card the next day.

    Merry Christmas to you too, Rain. And a Happy New Year! šŸ™‚

  3. CJ – thanks for the shout – out. If people are looking for ways to give interesting gifts they can also buy gift certificates and gift cards that allow people to choose the project they want to support.
    Cheers,
    Donna @ GlobalGiving

    CJ: Hi Donna, thanks for stopping by. I’ll definitely be keeping gift certificates in mind for a few people as well. šŸ˜‰

  4. CJ is true though that the rate of suicides increases around that time anyway it does in Canada…The commercialism thing is probably of the reasons why some people get so depressed over Xmas…Many are alone and don’t have the money to enjoy the festive like everyone else…I have had once spent Xmas in Egypt…It wasn’t commercialized like in others countries and it was like an ordinary day, we celebrated it a bit as we were Canadians, Aussies and British people who are used to make a big fuss over it.. But, I will lie to u saying that I don’t enjoy some Xmas magical aspects like the snow and the decoration…We had a big snow storm yesterday and I really felt the ”magic” of having a ”White Xmass”…..

    CJ: You’re right, CV, I’ve been thinking about the darker side of the season recently as well… the suicide rate increases here also, and definitely many people become depressed when they’re alone or remembering people who have passed… it’s important that we don’t forget them or fail to recognise the signs, because isn’t that what the season is really about, being there for other people, and helping those we love?

    It’s interesting how we celebrate Christmas too… my family lived in England for a few years when I was younger and the excitement there with seeing snow is something I’ll never forget. Here it’s so different… we love a warm day so we can spend it on the beach and have a barbeque, and it’d be unthinkable for a lot of us to have a roast in 33 degree heat! But the magic is still there, even though we celebrate it so differently. I’d love to see a white Christmas again, though; maybe one year I’ll manage it. šŸ˜‰

  5. I wasn’t aware of Global Giving – thanks for the link. There are some really worthy programs.

    Suicides increase at Christmastime in the US too. I know a few people who get seriously blue; they seem to think they have to live up to some idealized perfect Christmas which, of course, doesn’t exist.

    Happy Holidays, cj!

    CJ: I only heard about Global Giving a little while ago myself, but it’s great that word’s getting out. Kiva.org is another interesting site too. I forgot to mention it earlier. šŸ˜•

    Some of my family take Christmas very seriously; they want everything to be perfect, and of course something always goes wrong and they get very upset. I actually don’t like it when everything’s planned, you don’t get the same emotion… we’ll see how we go this year.

    Happy Holidays to you too, ella! And best wishes for the New Year. šŸ™‚

  6. I liked this post, cj. I tend to acknowlege several different winter holidays, as I have a multi-cultural family.
    /nod to raincoaster–Why would I want to grouch during anyone’s holiday when they are experiencing joy?
    In several places I have lived, community centers and religious organizations have held potluck dinners on Christmas day. If one is feeling alone, it’s a wonderful way to share, and maybe help others. We just have to get up the courage to attend!

    CJ: Thanks, Muse; I thought I’d get in early before everyone starts their Xmas posts! šŸ˜‰ Some of my best friends are Jewish, so we always acknowledge Hanukkah, and they do Christmas… I think it’s important that we recognise different holidays and faiths, to pay people people the same respect they show us.

    I agree with you too, why would we want to spoil what someone is feeling? Sometimes people can take the holidays too seriously, but don’t take away their joy. You can’t ever give it back.

    Quite a few shelters here provide homeless people with meals on Christmas day, and I know some community centres as well which do the same thing for people who are alone or are tourists and expats. I’d like to help at some stage myself; I think it’d be a nice way to spend Christmas.

  7. I guess you could say I’m part of the revival of Winter Solstice movement that occurred in the 1980’s.

    Winter Solstice is one of the most ancient celebrations found the world over. In fact, this traditional mid-winter celebration was usurped by early christians when their Roman masters renamed it “Christmas”. And we all witnessed it evolving into a commercialized nightmare bound up in pseudo-religious trappings.

    In the early 1980’s my friends and I replaced commercialized christmas with Winter Solstice celebrations. We eat, sing, dance, hug and kiss, recount the events of the past year. make plans for the new one and wish each other well. The food is a to-die-for ethic smorgasbord. It includes vegan, ovo-lacto vegetarian foods as well as the traditional roasted dead bird.

    Following that on christmas day we “pagans” become the kitchen and clean-up crew for a huge all inclusive community meal, sing-along and dance.

    CJ: That’s interesting. I know a few people here who observe Winter Solstice, but it’s obviously different for us as it occurs on June 20 or 21, so it doesn’t get mixed up with religious festivities. They find it empowering and spiritually uplifting, particularly rekindling the lifestyle we used to follow centuries ago.

    Your celebrations sound very like the spirit of the season I connect with; being together, sharing a meal, planning for the new year… the meal sounds like a more balanced reflection of modern society as well than what we seem to manage. Many people here still insist on a hot roast, which hardly matches our climate. If Christmas is more for children anyway, adults can probably separate themselves from it more easily than they think.

    I remember reading John Grisham’s Skipping Christmas a few years ago. That was interesting, but I thought the message (their “rediscovering” Christmas) at the end ruined it. I’d love to see a more adult commentary but I doubt it exists. Maybe I’ll have to write it. šŸ˜‰

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