it seems that during the christmas season there are many pressures. a whirlwind of gifts and relatives and friends and food and cookies. and you either succumb to the pressures and dash around like a madwoman, trying to get that perfect last-minute present, the last ingredients for the perfect christmas dinner, the most beautiful centerpiece for your christmas table, or you resist all of that.
this year, i'm resisting. for the most part, we have what we need, so we're not going mad with presents (if you don't count the small fortune i spent on new clothes for sabin in noa noa). we've just had our weekend of julefrokosts, so the family and friends bit is mostly behind us. we've been baking for the past week, so we've got a supply of christmas cookies laid in. those lovely people who bring my weekly organic box also brought an organic duck and a big, beautiful pork roast (both essential ingredients in the danish christmas dinner), so we're set as far as the food is concerned. i bought some hyacinths and i'm making my own table centerpiece. so the resisting is going well so far. and in fact, i've even managed to resist some other stuff:
~ christmas cards - i really don't do christmas cards. this isn't a new resistance, i've basically never done christmas cards. i always find those letters, outlining all of the achievements of the family over the past year and with overly sentimental and possibly hollow wishes for you to have a successful new year (so that your christmas letter next year can too be filled with glowing reports of little johnny's early acceptance to harvard and the like), to be...well...a bit braggy and ultimately empty. there, i said it. maybe i'm scrooge, but i don't want to send out such a letter and honestly, nor do i want to receive them. which isn't to say that i don't appreciate the sentiment behind the cards i receive (which are fewer and fewer each year, as people realize we don't send them back and put us in their grudge books), but i'm not willing able to reciprocate. i just don't have it in me. maybe i'm just bad at polite gestures. (and spud, bambi and bee, i'm not talking about you here...i love that you sent cards, i just didn't send one back.)
~ teacher gifts - i've seen a lot of references of late to people frantically getting their teacher gifts ready to go. and i have to say that we are very fortunate that that's not the norm here in denmark. so no pressure to give an elaborate gift to the teacher to keep her well-disposed to the child. since we didn't HAVE to do it, we did give sabin's teacher (who we love) one of our sweet little birds. and the riding teacher that was leaving also got one. but it felt much better for the fact that we weren't obligated to do it.
crappy picture taken from great distance in dark church at high ISO and then cropped within an inch of its life.
~ nativity chic - spud wrote not long ago about the nativity chic craze sweeping the UK. it sounded like utter madness - people spending up to 150£ on costumes for their child's appearance in the yearly nativity play. sabin was in a nativity play too and all it meant was that we had to roll out of bed rather early on sunday morning. sabin was one of the lesser-known characters - the christmas heart (julehjertet) - and all costumes were provided by the church. on this one, i'll admit i would like to have made an elaborate and much more fabulous costume for her myself, but i am grateful that the setup itself made it easy for me to resist this.
~ keeping up with the joneses hansens - we met a group of new people yesterday at a little christmas afternoon gathering at some friends of ours. there were three other couples there, all chatting and open and really nice (rather pleasantly undanish of them, actually, tho' all were danes). they were talking about trips taken and trips on the horizon. skiing in france just after christmas. a tour around thailand. visits to shanghai for mad shopping sprees. and it surprised me that i didn't feel any need at all to compete. i don't feel the least bit bad that we're going to be home this christmas, with our own crackling fire and the smells of duck roasting in the oven. i like to ski, but honestly, traipsing to france when the snow is beautiful here at home just doesn't appeal. and so i realized that all of that thinking about simplicity is working. i'll admit that maybe i've also reached a place where i'm comfortable in the knowledge of all the places i've traveled and don't feel any pressure to prove anything. and i realize that makes it much easier.
husband's older daughters were here this weekend and they had a lengthy conversation with their mother over what some or other cousin wanted for christmas. they couldn't remember and couldn't really think of anything original to get for the cousin. so they settled upon a gift card to a shop that has perfume and makeup, so that the cousin could buy what she wanted. and it really underlined for me how out of control the gift thing has become. we're giving gifts because we feel obligated to do so. and far too many people don't put any thought into it - they just ask for a list from the person and get them exactly what's on the list. we far too often just go buy the things we like and think we need, leaving there to be nothing we really wish for when christmas comes. and i think that takes the fun out of it for both giver and receiver. how much fun is it to open your gifts when you know what's in them? and it becomes more drudgery than fun to shop for gifts when you're just going down a pre-determined list.
i want to return to a place where gifts are meaningful. where i give because i found or made something that i know is perfect for that person. i'd rather gives less gifts that have more meaning and i definitely don't want to give some lame gift certificate because i can't be bothered to think of something proper to give. if you don't know the person well enough to be able to know what they'd like, then maybe you have no business giving them a gift in the first place? i really think we've come to a bad place in our evolution when gifts have become an obligation. the whole idea of gifts is lost if that's the case.
dismounts from soap box....
i hope that your christmas season is filled with love and laughter and good food and crackling fireplaces and time spent with people you love.