Is it just me or does it seem like each year the messaging around Christmas gets a little more... out-of-hand? This year I noticed Christmas displays the moment after Halloween decorations came down. Didn't we used to have an unwritten rule in the states that Thanksgiving came before Christmas?
I'm not sure if it's a result of my recent Make Thrift Mend fast, delving deeper into the many complicated issues around factory made goods, or if it's because I'm a new mom with a three-year-old and I'm hyper aware of the messages I send to him around any holiday. But this year feels particularly aggressive on the marketing front. Some stores are even emailing me every day with a new offer. Good grief! Time to get off their mailing lists.
Forgive me for being presumptuous but I think most of us feel a little too much pressure around the gift-giving side of Christmas and a little too much scarcity around the merriment. Am I right? Where's the time for decorating, baking, crafting, and (gasp) taking a walk in the snow or rain maybe even singing some Christmas carols a little off key when we are keeping up with all that shopping?
I'm calling it the conundrum of Christmas. I think it's at odds with a slow and intentional DIY life but I also think there are SO many opportunities to do it differently. (Don't give up, we can do it!) I've been making a list with my three-year-old about what Christmas means. Yes, it means gifts. But what else?
I keep nudging him to identify the other changes in our home, neighborhood, and weekly routines: The tree, decorations, baking, special foods, songs, handmade stockings, and holiday stories. Also the meals we've planned with friends. The gifts we're making for relatives. And the plate of cookies that showed up yesterday from my dear neighbor in her Sunday sweatpants. Our short list grows until I have convinced him, and myself, that Christmas is more than receiving gifts.
Growing up my family was crazy for Christmas. My father loved the spectacle of it all. But, of course, some of the things I remember most from my own childhood holidays aren't just the presents but specific shifts from the everyday routines like my father made breakfast Christmas morning instead of my mom, we cut the tree down ourselves and dragged it across the front yard, and it was the one time each year my mother would play records and we could listen to her beautiful singing voice while she baked all those delicious cookies.
I've come to the realization that Christmas doesn't have to be an assault on my personal values. It doesn't have to be completely at odds with the way I spend my money or my time the other eleven months of the year. Instead, it's an opportunity to dig deeper. It's an opportunity to challenge myself to stay aligned with my values and make the time to select gifts or make gifts that feel aligned with my ideals.
This year I am making 50% of the gifts. No, I didn't suddenly come into unlimited hours of daycare or a complete lack of freelance deadlines. Not at all. I just made the commitment to making 50% of the gifts because that feels important this year. Then I streamlined the process as much as humanly possible to make the creating and packaging more manageable. I'm making soaps for the first time and so far, so good. Lavender, oatmeal, and black tea are my secret ingredients this year. We're also making some specialty foods and a few other crafty creations that I can't give away quite yet.
I'm reminding myself I can choose handmade. I can choose to buy less. I can choose to buy from our local, independent shops instead of the mega chains. I can close my computer and walk away from the advertisements and make special foods or hot chocolate instead. Put on some holiday music and make something crafty with my hands. Even if it's one Christmas ornament or one handmade gift--it's a shift on the horizon that makes a huge difference over time. And it allows us another recreational activity aside from shopping even though my email inbox might tell me differently.
So I wish you the most beautiful and slow and intentional and lovely winter holidays that are imaginable. I wish you hot toddies, peanut butter balls, handmade ornaments, a houseful of holiday tunes sung proudly off key, and ample gatherings with family and friends. A walk in the woods or a jaunt in the rain. I'll be taking a break from this blog to indulge in some crafting, baking, and merriment making with my own little family over the next two weeks. I'll see you back here on Monday, January 5 with some fun news.
Happy New Year, you radiant souls! May your holidays be merry and bright.
PS--Do you have favorite holiday traditions you'd be willing to share? Any crafty creations or favorite recipes you can't go without each December? I'd love to know your secrets to a handmade holiday. Please leave any thoughts or ideas in the comment section. Thank you for sharing!