The end of the year is difficult for me, and not because of Seasonal Affective Disorder, or other more common reasons. I struggle with Christmas, and I love Thanksgiving, but it’s got some weird emotions associated with it too. I have some serious PTSD towards Christmas.
As a kid, most Thanksgiving’s were a family reunion on my Dad’s side. Held in a small town in Northern Utah, the population of the town would double. There would be tons of food, bingo, basketball, horse rides, shotgun shooting, and fun. I had so may obscure relatives I couldn’t remember them all and had to be reintroduced every year. I loved the experience and hearing all the stories from my cowboy relatives.
The part I don’t like about Thanksgiving is the insane lengths some will go to prepare the food. I get that it’s fun for many people, or it’s tradition. Sometimes it gets to be so tedious and stressful that it becomes less fun when the food doesn’t turn out after such a large investment of time and effort.
For the most part, this family reunion was great as the responsibility for the food was spread across many families. As a kid, I wasn’t really cognizant of the time and stress that goes into all this stuff. I just had fun shooting guns, playing bingo and playing with cousins.
Almost every Christmas was shared with my Mom’s side of the family (also in Northern Utah), but sometimes we stayed home. I looked forward to it, but not quite as much as Thanksgiving. I was close with my cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles, but I could sense more stress at this point in the year. This side of the family leans a bit more towards consumerism.
My sister and I were always spoiled rotten, getting large quantities of toys. I look back even now and realize I didn’t appreciate most of them (except for Lego’s, Transformers and Pokemon). There were always things we didn’t want that had to be returned and often replaced with a more preferred toy.
I often felt pressured to make a list and usually got more than was included on my list. As it turns out, I wasn’t the only one feeling stressed about it, as finances were a major strain on my parents relationship, and my mom had a tendency to go overboard. This led to their eventual divorce, among other reasons.
A Weird Practical Kid
I recognized as a child what many adults don’t seem to. Things won’t make you happy. More stuff isn’t always better. Most of your presents you will use a couple times, replace, store and forget about until you make a trip to Goodwill.
As I’ve gotten older and come to understand how most people don’t have their finances in a good place, I’ve come to dislike the commercial aspects of Christmas even more. Many people would allow debt to persist in their lives and dig deeper to give a present to me or my family. That does not sit well with me. I’m not privy to all of my family’s financial situations, but it truly pains me to see families allow consumer debt to live on and give something to unnecessary to me or my family. Especially when the gift isn’t something I/we even wanted.
Other Problems With Christmas
I fully expect to get hated on for this section, but it’s my blog and I can say what I want. These are my personal feelings and opinions. People that are crazy about Christmas have no problem shoving it in other faces (and ears), so they ought to be able to take the other side too.
Being a guy, I get sensible decorating and making your home look nice, but I can’t understand Christmas decorations. Some people pull out 10-20 boxes of things they use for one month of the year. I have a hard time with the ramifications this has on finances and home storage. We have two boxes, and one holds a Christmas tree.
There are many a sitcom episode detailing a competition between neighbors for who can get the most lights on their home. Not only is this sort of thing a fire hazard, it’s a drain on electricity, and generally a waste of time. I’m all for a string of lights along the roofline and a few things in the yard or on the porch. While the elaborate lighting and blow up collections thrill kids, I can’t imagine myself ever going through this practice. I might think differently if I was Financially Independent (FI) and had all the time in the world.
I’m With The Grinch
Oh that noise, oh the noise, noise, noise, noise…The Grinch
Probably my least favorite thing (after the monetary stupidity) is the music. Too many a capella renditions, too many versions of a small subset of holiday music in general. My wife is playing a horrible Christmas song as I type. I dislike 99% of Christmas music. But, I do have an approved Christmas music list:
- The Home Alone soundtrack: all of it is tolerable.
- Taylor Swift’s Last Christmas (I like the occasional girl jam and she nailed this song).
- Lo, How A Rose E’er Blooming.
- Still Still Still
- Other gospelly songs.
Christmas As A Sport
A lot of times gifts make me feel uncomfortable. Last year I asked for a specific item that retails for $2. I did not receive the item itself but I did receive 4 other related items. It was confusing and while I was appreciative, I had a hard time understanding why I didn’t get the thing I actually had asked for.
Some people are really charitable and have almost a hunter mentality where they want to find the perfect gift for someone. The thing is, it’s often very difficult to know for sure how the gift will be received.
On a somewhat related note, Dave Ramsey commented on his show recently how many people prostitute themselves during the holiday season. Here are his words:
Don’t [buy stuff] in the name of its gonna make a relationship okay… If you have to buy someone’s relationship, that’s called prostitution. If you’re trying to make broken relationship right with a purchase you’re gonna struggle whole life with money, and you’re living an illusion. Don’t buy stuff for someone to make them feel better about you. That won’t work.
Don’t buy stuff to make you feel better about you. The number of people that spend money just to keep family happy during Christmas… is unbelievable. The pressure you feel, if I don’t do a gift at this level my sister will be mad… What you need to do is have a different discussion and the discussion has nothing to do with the size of the gift. The discussion has to do with the quality of the relationship between the giver and the receiver, and that changes everything.
In other words, the gifts really should not matter in the relationships at all. And the gifts should not matter in your search for happiness.Dave Ramsey – emphasis added
I strongly agree with what Dave says. My immediate family doesn’t really care about gifts at any point in the year. We do care about actually caring for each other, talking to each other and looking out for each others. You don’t have a family with money, you have a family with love.
What I Want For Christmas
I want my family (extended and immediate) to be debt free, able to save and invest, prepare for their future, and enjoy time with each other. Overspending at Christmas drove a noticeable wedge into my family and paved the way to divorce.
I want to celebrate the season sensibly, and focus on Christ. Christmas, as it relates to the gospel of Jesus Christ, is also something I try to live by. We try to be extra charitable and kind to others.
When most kids think of Christmas, they think of Santa and toys. That doesn’t seem quite right to me, and perhaps we collectively are doing a disservice to young children. I’m guilty of this too, it’s hard not to be.
The Gift Of A Pressure Free Christmas
I want to relieve the underlying stress or pressure anyone feels to get me or my household anything, because we’re doing just fine.
I want to be relieved of the pressure to get anyone anything out of tradition. If someone wants to give me a gift just because, then great. If I want to give someone a gift and come across something I’m fairly confident they will like, I’ll get it for them.
Giving the gift of no pressure is my gift to everyone I associate with. It is a gift I would love to receive too.
I want the spirit of Thanksgiving to permeate the Christmas season. Thanksgiving, for me, is more of a lifestyle than a holiday.
Also, I want a Segway Scooter, the most expensive one. And I just bought myself a PowerDot.
How does your family celebrate Christmas? How do you combat mindless consumerism? Have you noticed any negative affects of Christmas celebration in your own home?
This article offers really good alternatives if your love language is giving/receiving gifts