Monday, December 21, 2009

resisting...



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.

14 comments:

Sammi said...

In England we call those braggy letters round robins!

I dont usually send Christmas cards, but I bought special ones for the people who have been amazing to me this year and wrote them notes thanking them for everything they've done this year :o)

Lisa-Marie said...

In Scotland, the 'Round Robin' letter is not done. Scottish people do not brag about thier children. They brag about two things - how much they can drink, and how little they paid for something.

It sounds like you are quite prepared! Al I hae to do is make some biscuits and ALOT of mince pies, but as its easy i don't mind!

Sandra said...

Well, I've never been skiing in France and I can pretty much guarantee I never will! But we have snow and fireplaces and food, drink and a roof over our heads. So I guess it's all good! I am not up for any of it this year so I'm not doing any of it. We get lots of the brag letters. I read them aloud, giving voice to each character in the letter. I think I would miss the fun. : )

I hope you enjoy the duck and the crackling fire. Happiness to you, Husband and Sabin.

*jean* said...

here here!! been there, done that...still send cards, but only to people i love.....do like getting photos of children though....

here's to good food & friends...

merry christmas!

paris parfait said...

I have made an effort to scale back this Christmas; instead of sending cards, I donated money to a worthy cause (and I hate those "newsletters," particularly from people you'd rather not know about) :). I bought one present for my husband (and will buy one more after Christmas, as couldn't find the intended gift) and my daughter's gifts were purchased when we were in Jordan. Am not mailing gifts West, for the first time. We're having a quiet and simple Christmas (first time we won't have guests in I can't remember when) and I'm quite pleased about it. Brit husband will roast a turkey and make Nigella's cranberry-and-orange stuffing and roast potatoes; I'll bake a pie and cookies. A bottle of good Burgundy will be consumed. And that's that. Really, with so much going on throughout the year, it's nice to slow down for a few days. Happy Christmas to you and yours! xoxox

Janni said...

I send cards out, but mostly because i like making them myself. I really don't know what to write in them, for the most part it is just " Merry Christmas and a Happy new year", but i guess it says it all anyway...

As a new teacher, i got my first teacher-gifts this year, i almost felt a little embarrassed, i am surprised to read that it is the norm i the US

I wish you and your family a merry Christmas and a happy new year... ;-)

Janni

Char said...

i made a list for my brother - just because he's a rather clueless male that loves me and wants me to have what i would like to have. he's stressed by the pressure of finding something right - it works out.

and i've cut my buying to the bare bones - gifts for the nieces/nephews and then the brothers/sister. that's it. i've told all of my friends not to buy me gifts. not that i don't appreciate the thought but i would rather them give it to a worthy cause if they so feel led. my church is digging wells in zambia - that is a very worthy cause they can give to.

Barb said...

We are also not having a huge Christmas this year. Santa is bringing a few things that the kids will share - "gasp!", and then they have a few things from us. I made cards this year, when I ran out, that was the end of my sending.
Happy Holidays!

Allegria said...

Our Christmas has been fiscally responsible this year, and it has been great not having that hectic, shopping stress. I do cards...mnnn...maybe every other year. This year is not the year. It's nice just to hunker down, play great Christmas music, fill the house with great smells, and meet with good friends. That's Christmas.

Magpie said...

I like sending cards, but not those letters. Though I sometimes like getting those letters, if only to mock them.

Your point on gift cards and lists is spot on. I give because I want to give - and they are things that come from me, my heart. And if the recipient doesn't love? So what. It almost wasn't the point.

Lorac said...

Since I lost my job this June, we have had to learn to cut back drastically. I was very apprehensive about Christmas this year and rather down in the dumps about it all. I decided what was done was done and there really was nothing I could do about the money situation now so I might as well try to enjoy what I have. I was able to buy a couple of gifts for my two granddaughters and everyone else is getting a handmade scarf that I have crocheted. I haven't crocheted in years but it helped me to at least think I was contributing to Christmas for everyone else. I have played Christmas Carols, enjoyed the Christmas shows on TV, decorated the house and tried to relax with the season. Definitely simple this year. Hope yourself and Hubby have the best Christmas ever and that Sabin will have a holiday to remember!

spudballoo said...

Next year I shall send you a VAST pig joint from my freezer ;-)

You know, weirdly, I love those letters! I would never ever do it myself, but I do enjoy them from others. it's a kind of sickness.

I would love to give up the cards. such a waste of money, it would be better given to charity for sure. However, the hassle I would get from family etc isn't worth it. Cry.
x

Bee said...

The number one Christmas chore for me is the Christmas cards. I always heave a great sigh of relief when I get them all mailed. However, I will continue to do them because we have friends all over the world and I do not want to lose touch with them. It does force me to make at least annual contact, and I LOVE the American tradition of sending pics of the kids (even if they are glamourized or sentimentalized).

The bit about gifts really struck me, though. I WISH that we could just give gifts whenever we saw something that made us think of the person.

mel said...

Been meaning to come back to this one as the holidays and time got away from me - and I had to hunt - you are prolific! I wanted to say Thanks for this one particularly. I'm a scrooge about Christmas and really hate feeling that way, but I try to make it up in other ways. I've adopted my husband's attitude toward gifts - which I used to think was kind of a cop out but now I think it's true, or maybe I am now copping out too! Bah Humbug! ;) Gift giving should have meaning and we don't need a specific day to be pressured into doing something thoughtful for people we care about. My friends don't get cards or gifts at Christmastime (I tried and failed miserably for years, for the last several I haven't even tried anymore) - but I try very hard to let them know in other ways throughout the year how much they mean to me. Don't need a mandatory day for it. Some folks do seem to need the push though, and I guess that's ok. I have some loved ones that can't seem to show their concern for all the world, but at Christmas they'll do something lovely and I'll know.
I hope your holiday was wonderful, happy times with family and friends, I look forward to catching up on your posts.