Tuesday, December 15, 2009

How Christmas feels different this year

Once a guy in the shop (more of a skeptic than a customer) asked me if what we were doing was just adding to the problem of stuff. "Stuff" is officially the root of all evil in some greenies eyes. If you don't believe in stuff at all then you eventually will find yourself living in a thatched hut made from roadside trash and eating the berries you collect and other food you can gather from the countryside. I am not that extreme, but I get their point. When you ask me what "stuff" I couldn't live without, I might say music, or my clothes, but yeah, can I live without my Ipod or a table for my porch? I guess so. I don't need a bunch of new stuff.

Christmas seems to have this mythology of stuff wrapped up in it. When I scan my memory banks for Christmas images, I think of trees and a stack of presents, and big buffets of food and friends and drinks and singing. That stack of presents though, shiny and imposing, is stuck there in my brain. Do kids really need a huge stack of presents to open to be happy on Christmas? I remember the excitement of Christmas morning. I remember sneaking in to see if the massive Hot Wheels set was ready for my racing skills at 4 am. I also remember opening presents that were just filler. They were like Cheetos, all puffy and air, wrapped in slick paper with little to offer. I remember toys that broke the same day. I remember the smell of the electric cars arcing on the track. I remember toys buried in my closet and never played with again.

Last year, the economy was tanking and people wanted to believe they could still give the Christmas they always had. People came out and bought presents and charged those cards and said "Dang it we will have a stack of presents!" This year is different though. We've been beat up all year with layoffs, paycuts, and credit card rate increases. People are searching for meaningful presents and (gasp!) buying less presents. Some folks have even made... their... own! I know, it is an interesting time. Christmas can change, and I hope it will change. People may buy less, but hopefully they will channel their spending to meaningful gifts. When I think of what I would trade the stack of gifts for, I think of time. I don't remember very many gifts I've received, but I remember playing with my brothers that morning in pajamas on a cold floor. I remember long rides in the car to grandparents' lunches on Christmas day. I challenge us all to make a few presents count and to really show that we know what our loved ones need. I hope we take the time to show them we care whether we can afford a present or not.

I love obscure Christmas music and the other day I received a cd from a friend in a handmade cd protector made from an old t-shirt sleeve. The first track was a Raveonettes Christmas song I had heard earlier that week. That is exactly how Christmas gifts should feel - handmade and thoughtful.

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