I do not celebrate Christmas.
This is not news to anyone that has known me for some time but, because I move around a lot, there are some people I’m currently close with who have not known me for some time. This message is for you.
I haven’t celebrated Xmas for a number of years now. I used to be quite (read: very) soap-boxy about my hatred of all things yuletide but throughout the years that fanaticism (like most of my fanaticism) has relaxed to more of a dulled disdain.
There are facets of holiday celebration I’m more than happy to partake in; the parties and get-togethers and the like. I like spending time with people I like so, really, whatever the excuse – boom hells yeah lets go.
I will not decorate. I feel for the Earth, poor struggling whelp that she is. It does not bring me joy to string sparkly reminders of our diminishing rainforests from one corner of the room to the other.
I don’t do carols. They are terrible and make me want to kill myself. Or at least stab myself in the ears.
But above all else – I don’t do gifts. This is not exclusive to Xmas. I do not do gifts for any calendar occasion. I do do gifts, occasionally. . . just not when I’m supposed to.
This confuses a lot of people. Allow me to explain more fully:
I am big on consent. Most of us (I hope) get what consent means in regards to entering sexual activities. Or perhaps a business agreement. But a lot of people seem to get confused by the concept of consent in regards to our (in this instance: Western) society’s default obligations, one of which is ‘You should buy shit for [these people] on ‘x’ dates and, in return, said people will buy shit you for on ‘x’ dates. If said shit is not bought, then you are a bad person.’
That, ladies and gentlemen, is, in my humble opinion, bullshit of the highest order. I personally think society’s manipulation of media and popular opinion to convince us that we are bad people who don’t love properly if we don’t affirm our affection with dollar signs is a dick move and I refuse to support it. Because it is ridiculous.
And logistically poor. So if we care for someone, we buy something for their birthday. And Xmas. If they’re our folks, Mother’s and Father’s day are also on the table. Valentine’s for lovers. For the parents among us, there’s also copious amounts of chocolate for the kiddies on Easter and processed sugar for the neighbourhood lot on Halloween (Awesome! Shit dietary re-enforcement as well as financial burden! Yay!).
Now, those happen every year. You’ve also got one-offs: Weddings. Showers. Graduations. The list goes on.
That’s a lot of fucking giftboxes. A lot of time spent in malls (whether online or in the physical world). A lot of stress and guilt about whether you should buy for that person or no. A lot of stressing about how much should be spent. Will they like this? Do they already have this? Do I get something for this work mate? What if they get something for me and I don’t get something for them? I’ll just get something for everyone, even though I’m still in debt from doing the same thing last year. . .
Time. Stress. Guilt. Money.
But the worst thing is this is only all done under the assumption that they will be buying things for us in return. Which, when you do the math, really means that every year we spend a copious amount of time, energy and money on buying an assload of items for ourselves that we don’t need or likely even want to clutter our homes with, when most of us are already running dangerously low on time, space, energy, money and possibly, as a result, sanity.
Yeah, no. Fuck that, man. I cause enough unneeded anxiety in my life unintentionally. If I spot a place I can consciously eradicate it, I’m doing that. So I’ve been doing it for several years now. And I’ve been a lot happier/less stressed since making that decision. A lot.
As I mentioned, I try (try) not to soapbox about it too hard these days. Just as I would like people to respect my decision I try to respect theirs. If you find that spending hour upon hour shopping for the perfect gift for every ‘within gift sphere’ person in your life (then spending further time and dollars to wrap said gifts in an aesthetically impressive manner with various tree corpse products) brings joy and glitter to your life then, you know, run with that. (I will point out, though, that if you only do it with the expectation that the same effort will be expended by others for you in turn. . .you’re probably going to be disappointed. Often.)
But I reiterate: Please do not buy me things. I will not be buying you anything. If I do ever gift you something, it’s because I truly believe your life will be enhanced by it (though if it’s actually shit and you don’t want it please don’t feel you need to posture that you actually like it on my behalf. Ask for the receipt and return that shit for something that will be of benefit to you. Seriously.), and I want you to have it and it is given without any assumption that the gesture will ever be returned. If it does happen, it will be at an entirely random time of year. Because, even if I happen to come across the thing around a holiday I’ll probably stubbornly sit on actually giving it to you until after the holiday. Because. . .well, I’m just fucking stubborn like that.
In return: Yes, I will accept gifts, albeit awkwardly. I just sincerely hope they are given because you absolutely, genuinely wanted to give me something, and not because you felt obligated to. But seriously: I have enough things. I have more than enough things. Please think long and hard before buying me any more things.
So that’s me and gifts and where we stand. There are a lot of other factors that contribute to my strict ‘I don’t buy shit for calendar dates’ policy but those are the important bullet points.
(I should point out one exception to this policy: Group giftings. If someone comes to me and say ‘Hey, [group I am a part of] are all throwing in [x dollars] to get [name] this thing for [event]. You in?’ I probably will be. One, because often those group things are gifts they can actually use and two, because peer pressure; I don’t want my name to be the only one not on the card. It just makes me feel like a dick.)
I will expand on one point in an effort to sway you to my side, or at least consider checking out the view from here: I believe that buying shit to show our love is a cheap shortcut, distracting from what is truly important. Though I may fail at times to show the people I love in my life how much they mean to me, I think trying to make up for that with plastic and glitter serves to cheapen my affection, not affirm it.
Alternatively, what if you considered spending the time/energy/money you typically invest in the holidays on instead bettering yourself? Your lot, your life? Or someone else’s? What if you spent it on being a better friend/daughter/mother/lover?
Or even, to take baby steps, what if this year you invested in gifted experiences as opposed to material possessions? Handmade cards for everyone on your list with handwritten vouchers good for coffee on you? Movie vouchers for two? Promises of massages (or slightly more x-rated endeavours)? Or took the whole chunk of your budget to make a charitable donation to a cause that matters to you? Give to those who could really use it?
My two cents. You have it.
Best wishes for a happy holiday season, however you choose (and it is a choice) to spend it.
*In other news, Xmas in summer is weird. It wouldn’t be, if Australia owned it. But they don’t. They just use the same iconography of the Coco-cola Santa in his furry coat and snowflakes and reindeer and shit and it’s just weird. Fake snow melting down windows in the 30+ heat. Bizarre. It’s like they’re in denial that summer is happening. WHY WOULD YOU EVER DENY THAT? I’m always startled when I leave the mall and its aisles of German chocolate and fake trees and oversized ornaments and find the sun blasting down on me (or, because it’s Melbourne, rain. Or both sun and rain. Melbourne really is very bipolar with her forecasts).
*The Grump Xmas Cat and FML Santa memes are not my property; the images have been on my computer forevers. If you are aware of who should be credited for the memes, please notify me and credit will be given.
*Years back I saw this video by the Advent Conspiracy. It’s got a religious tilt, which isn’t personally my thing, but it’s still a damn good video and I still relate to the sentiment. Also I’m a sucker for good typography:
This is just the best, it’s so good to hear your voice again through your writing. A couple of years ago the entire fam jam decided to round up most of the dollars that we would normally spend at Xmas and pool it together to donate – to Feed NS, Transition House, or another organization – while still having a small limit amount to buy each other gifts (because one of our family members is a person for whom “spending hour upon hour shopping for the perfect gift for every ‘within gift sphere’ person in your life brings joy and glitter to your (her) life”). It’s been stress-relieving, and it also gives the opportunity to start those conversations with those we love in our life about why we decided to do it, challenging the dominant acceptable discourse at that (or any calendar-date) time of year. Again, thanks for this post. Hope that you’re well, and sending lots of love. Abrazotes, Becca
Awesome! Great to hear, Becca 🙂