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! πŸ˜‰

Site of the Week: GlobalGiving

Site of the Week (4/10/07)
GlobalGiving

Rating: 5star.jpg

With Christmas not that far away, here’s a website you might find useful. GlobalGiving connects users to over 450 independent charity projects around the world to make donations that can help to change and shape a community. You can help fund projects from orphanages and schools to health programs and all projects are approved by reputable organisations like the United Nations Foundation before being listed to ensure legitimacy.

What makes GlobalGiving different from other sites is that it connects donors directly to the projects, allowing donors to choose who they support. When you make a donation you can opt to remain anonymous or to let your contact information be known to the project leader, allowing you to stay updated on the project’s progress. There are also project reports every few months available through GlobalGiving.

Donations through GlobalGiving are tax-deductible and are a good option for people looking to make donations as a gift. You buy a gift certificate (an email or a card) and the recipient goes to the website and chooses the projects they want to give funds to, involving them in the process rather than simply making a donation in their name. Making a donation or buying a certificate is simple with payment accepted through credit cards, PayPal, cheques and bank transfers.

One thing of note is that GlobalGiving takes a fee of 10% from donations for administration, but that’s lower than the fees of similar sites. GlobalGiving was founded by two former heads of the World Bank and if you’re thinking of making a charitable donation, GlobalGiving is well worth a look.