Posts tagged: holiday commercialism

Redefining Christmas

By , December 22, 2008 8:51 pm

As a child, I remember Christmas being so exciting that I could hardly sleep the night before. We’d have a tree, Christmas stockings and yummy turkey.  My Dad would always design a “trail” for me –  a treasure hunt with clues – to lead me to my biggest present.  Dessert was always my mother’s homemade Christmas pudding with lots of thick cream, almond paste cloaked Christmas cake, and tiny, flaky mince pies (my parents were from England).

As an adult, I managed to spend most of my Christmases at home with my mother and sister (my parents were divorced by then) where it would always be the same as I remembered (minus the trail).

This will be the fourth Christmas since the death of my mother.  Each year, my sister and I have struggled with how to make Christmas like we remembered.  For a variety of reasons, the first two years were fairly miserable.  Last year, I just ran away from it all and ignored Christmas as much as I could.

This year, I feel brave enough to try it again.  It will be different.  My sister and I have decided that we can’t recreate the same thing without my mother.  Those days are gone.  I need to do something new (but with a few old elements?).

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a long time (at least a year) may remember last year’s  Christmas/Holidays Unplugged series, so perhaps you know of my internal struggles.  I want to create lovely memories and traditions for my children, but hate the commercialism and lack of any meaning.

I think that writing that series of posts really helped me prioritize and come up with a plan.  A “year off” from Christmas helped a lot too.

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The plan this year is as follows:

– Tree: Thin tree that needed to be cut from our property anyway – read more: An Ugly Christmas Tree.

– Child Presents: Christmas stockings plus one gift each for the kids from Santa, and a few from us.

NOTE:  Without TV, my kids don’t really have specifics on what they want…which is wonderful and difficult at the same time.  They sat on Santa’s lap at our town Christmas tree lighting and both asked for “a surprise.”  I wonder how many kids do that?

– Adult Presents: Christmas stockings all around.  I do the children, my sister and my husband.  My sister does her significant other and me.  I love the challenge of finding cool little things that they might like that would fit in the tiny space of a stocking.  It seems fun and not commercially excessive.

Otherwise, we are not doing adult gifts this year.  We are all in the very fortunate position (especially fortunate in light of this year’s economy) of being able to buy whatever we need, and I hate shopping out of a “need to buy something” mentality.

In lieu of gifts, each adult will do a donation to charity for each other adult (to that other adult’s favorite charity).  I have even gotten a few other relatives on board with this (even for the kids) which certainly lightens the gift receiving (and giving) burden, is much more in the spirit of the season, and makes me feel that we are actually doing good for the world rather than doing good for Walmart.

– Food: I think I’ll get a small, fresh turkey from our local market (but I’d better get on that right away, especially since the weather is forecast to be lousy).  I’ll try to keep it somewhat simple because I want to enjoy the day and not spend it mostly in the kitchen as I remember my mother doing.

Of course, if I can’t get to the store for food, we’ll be having leftovers for Christmas.  But snowed-in with leftover pasta might actually make for a completely fun and memorable Christmas!

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This is my overall plan.  It may need refining next year…or maybe I’ll just want to run away again.  I don’t know.  I’ll tell you all how it goes.

Good luck defining (or redefining) your celebration.  Happy holidays to all!

Happy Holidays!!
(“…brought to you by ___”)

By , December 3, 2008 8:03 pm

This is a post I should have written about two months ago. Two months ago when all the cheap plastic decorations first made their way into the supermarkets, Walmarts, Kmarts and Any-Other-Marts in the United States. Here in the U.S., shoppers have been regaled with muzak versions of The Little Drummer Boy and Silent Night since well before Halloween (October 31st) this year.

Now that we have finally gotten that pesky little Thanksgiving holiday over with, the commercial Christmas onslaught can begin in earnest.

On my Thanksgiving cross-country trip, I realized what I have been missing without TV for all these years. Ads. Hundreds and thousands of ads promising me the best Christmas ever (what is that anyway?) if only I purchase a new Best Buy flat screen TV, or Macy’s cashmere sweater, or Zales diamond necklace, or _______ (insert advertised product in blank) for my loved one.

I had forgotten what it was like. Although I had a fabulous trip, I was quite relieved when I was finally home and able to retreat to the refuge of my quiet house to end the commercial attack on my psyche.

And here comes the part that I should have written about three months ago when I first detected the initial stirrings of faux holiday jolliness in the stores:

Since many readers are probably new to Unplug Your Kids, I should let you all know that last year while suffering a holiday existential crisis, I wrote a series of posts entitled Christmas/Holidays Unplugged in which I explored alternatives to the traditional American commercial holiday experience.

I know it is a bit late now that December is already here, but if anyone is in need of a bit of inspiration, or encouragement, or alternative holiday ideas, then hopefully you might enjoy some of these posts.

I have listed them all here and linked to them so you can click on what sounds interesting to you. I hope that someone will find this helpful! 

(Also:  If you find a topic interesting, be sure to read the comments too since readers often left their own wonderful insights and suggestions.)

1) Merry Christmas

2) Unplug The Christmas Machine (a book review – very inspirational book if you are disillusioned with Christmas/Hanukkah)

3) Making a List and Checking it Twice (what does your holiday really mean to you?)

4) Holiday Prep – Part 1 (Introduction)

5) Holiday Prep – Part 2: Help! Holiday Prep Makes Me Miserable!!

6) Holiday Prep – Part 3: Help! I Love Doing it All, But How Can I Find Time to Do it?

7) Celebrating Advent

8) Commercialism in Your Mailbox?

9) A Holiday Linky Assortment

10) The Great Christmas Tree Dilemma (Real? Fake? Living? What else?)

11) Buy Handmade

12) Donate this Year Instead of Gifts

13) Santa Lists and Sponge Bob (dealing with kids’ gift requests)

14) Combating Commercials (fighting the effects of toy ads)

15) Help!  Too Much Stuff!! (ideas for cutting down on the amount of “stuff”)

16) A Post as Small as a Stocking Stuffer (“nice toy” stocking stuffer ideas)

(Thanks to Everystockphoto and phtographer”tandemracer” for this photo. View license terms here.)

Merry Christmas

By , November 5, 2007 10:17 pm

Now that Halloween is behind us, do you know what holiday comes next? What’s that? “Thanksgiving” you say? Wrong…Christmas is next! At least it is in the eyes of the advertisers, the stores and the catalogs.

My Friday trip to Walmart to buy my daughter’s new fish was my wake up call that the next holiday is actually Christmas. Two days after Halloween, Halloween was GONE. The little that remained was relegated to three small shelves containing a few squashed nylon Jack O’Lanterns, several flimsy costumes too ugly to have made it into a shopping cart, and a few dozen bags of cheap, tasteless candy that is now even cheaper (and which will certainly be even more tasteless by next Halloween).

Halloween has disappeared, and in its place there are plastic Santas, jolly singing snowmen, giant inflatable snow globes, and animated wire reindeer made of Christmas tree lights. The toy department is bustling with extra employees stocking the already full shelves with even more cheap plastic Chinese toys. Everything there talks, rumbles, roars, or at least flashes multicolored lights.

To me, there are few things more depressing that the annual Christmas propaganda that seems to begin earlier and earlier all the time. Why don’t they just leave the decorations and Christmas carols up and going all year long? That would surely save some money and maximize profits too.

By now, you might have detected an ever so slightly cynical tone to my thoughts on Christmas. Yes, as you may have guessed, every year I struggle with Christmas and how to make it something other than a shopping and accumulation fiesta. As my children grow older, it is becoming more and more troubling to me.

If it were just me, I would prefer to simply skip Christmas altogether. How’s that for being a complete Scrooge? “Scrooge Unplugged.”

But it is not just me in the world, so I can’t merely stick my head in the sand. I have three children who want to (and should) “do” Christmas. So this year, I am determined to continue my progress toward a simpler, more meaningful Christmas.

With that depressing little intro, I announce a new series at Unplug Your Kids entitled “Christmas Unplugged.” By Christmas, I also mean Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, or whatever your personal over the top, year end festival of light might be.

So…if you are interested…stay tuned for my thoughts, and hopefully practical ideas, for unplugging your holidays.

Thanks to morguefile.com and photographer Clara Natoli for this photo.

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