A New Kind of Christmas
Many of my ways of living have evolved through experience and exposure to other ways. One of these ways concerns how to celebrate Christmas. Growing up, I was not celebrating in a way that felt right, but one year something occurred and now I celebrate Christmas my way. But, this style of celebrating Christmas can still be awkward and difficult for others to understand, so let me explain.
When I was younger, I dreaded the arrival of Christmas each year and longed for it to end, while trying to hide my disappointment with a smile. All of December was a write-off for peace and happiness: there was always too much traffic to endure, too many crowds to fight, and way too much dutiful purchasing to erode my enjoyment of the season. December shopping led to hairsplitting stress from having to find just the right gifts for everyone, even people that were on the gift-list for no other reason than they expected a gift, or because social conventions pressured us to exchange. These people weren’t planning to spend time with me over the holidays; I was just expected to acknowledge their importance in my life with a material offering.
Later in life, I moved to a relatively Buddhist country where Christmas was not universally or typically celebrated, but instead principles of simplicity, modesty, and unity were upheld in opposition to commercialization. I was relieved that year. For the first time in my life, I was able to avoid the commercialism that is deep-rooted in my own culture’s celebration style. It was the best gift I ever could have received. For once, I was able to just enjoy the spirit of Christmas with those around me, other expats abroad and locals. None of us exchanged gifts. Instead we collected money to be given to an orphanage, and gathered together to eat, sing, dance, and enjoy each other. It was a very special Christmas of pure joy and comfort without stress.
Now I am home, and it’s a yearly struggle in a different way. I try to celebrate with others without succumbing to old ways, or feeling pressured to follow the pack and do as others do. I try not to downgrade other’s beliefs while uplifting my own, but every year I must stand firm against those who believe their way of celebrating Christmas is the right thing to do because it’s the way it has always been done (in their eyes).
People can feel uncomfortable giving a gift to everyone but you, but I don’t want to receive gifts for Christmas anymore because it’s not the right thing to do for me. I want people to understand that I do celebrate Christmas; I just don’t celebrate it commercially. So, it is important to think about and interpret what that means:
com·mer·cial [kuh-mur-shuhl] adjective
• Prepared, done, or acting with sole or chief emphasis on sale-ability, profit, or success.
• Able to yield or make a profit.
• Suitable or fit for a wide, popular market.
• Commercial, mercantile, referring to the activities of business, industry, and trade.
• In a derogatory sense it may mean such a preoccupation with the affairs of commerce as results, indifference to considerations other than wealth.
[above excerpt from dictionary.com]
Celebrating Christmas without commercialism means removing everything commercial: Profit, Trade, Market, and Indifference to considerations other than wealth. Rejecting commercialism isn’t rejecting Christmas. I reject commercialism in order to peacefully and joyfully celebrate and enhance the spirit of Christmas:
- Giving to those in need, without expecting gifts in return. Exchanging is not giving; receiving in return is not truly giving.
- Saving time, money, energy and patience for charity. (Not succumbing to commercialized traditions.) One can give any way they have means.
- Spending time with loved ones. Christmas is a celebration of peace, love, and unity; who truly loves you, brings you peace, and offers you connection? Christmas with your pet is better than with people who don’t truly care.
- Attending community gatherings and cultural festivities. Non-profit or fundraising events help promote real Christmas spirit.
- Joining together modestly with people of all means. Original Christmas stories recount tales of the wealthy temporarily abandoning their extravagant lifestyles to give to those in need; anyone can offer time, effort, or a true gift.
- Acknowledging what a ‘true gift’ is and only giving to those in need. A true gift is giving to those who cannot provide for themselves, such as animals or children. A true gift enhances someone’s life through learning or experience.
- Compromising with those who celebrate commercially. Creating beautiful memories together with significant others or relatives on a Christmas vacation can be a life-enhancing and educational experience.
I celebrate Christmas in a peaceful and giving way, as I believe it was intended. My gifts are limited to true gifts for those cannot provide for themselves; when I need to compromise, I suggest a vacation. Without commercialism, there is still so much left to celebrate: Community, Unity, Festivity, Spirit, Charity, and Modesty. I choose to give myself a true gift that no one else can give me: a Christmas of peace and joy, removed from the pressures of modern culture’s commercialized Christmas, and stress-free time with loved ones. I celebrate a new kind of Christmas.
2017© Charlotte Hansen All Rights Reserved.