This morning, my email is overflowing with offers of “irresistible cyber savings!”, some from vendors I have never heard of, all extended in the hope that I will take advantage of “one day” discounts and purchase items I had not considered buying before and didn’t even know I needed until now. Tomorrow morning, no doubt, my email will reveal extended Cyber Monday discounts. Cyber Monday will become Cyber week. Hurry! Buy this! Buy that! Big items! Big savings! The Christmas season has begun! Whippee. I’m not falling for it. While I welcome the spirit of the season, I take issue with its excess, frivolity, and steep price tag.
The Christmas holidays I recall best were not “big” or over-the-top. My holiday memories are of simple activities that thrilled me then and comfort me now, like singing Christmas carols in the school auditorium or reading a Christmas book replete with beautiful illustrations. Each year, my sister and I decorated the family Christmas tree together. We had no Christopher Radko or Lenox ornaments to show off; Mom purchased our decorations, glass balls edged in glitter or little, plastic angels, at the local five and dime. Mom’s Christmas village was comprised of paper houses with cellophane windows rather than detailed, fancy Department 56 collectibles, and her living room was accented with red, green, and white crocheted decorations rather than candles with automatic timers and costly, lighted garland purchased from QVC. We knew Christmas was almost here when Dad took us on a car ride through the neighborhood to look at the Christmas lights. Mom made us hot chocolate afterward. Such simple gestures and little things created lasting seasonal magic for my sister and me.
Of course, one could correctly argue that the past benefits from selective memory, and holiday celebrations reflect the social norms of the time. It’s unreasonable to think what was suitable during childhood would be adequate in the present, but nowadays it sometimes seems as if our “go big or go home” approach to the holiday overshadows the more subtle elements of the season. Our society values excess. It’s who we are. People erect giant inflatable figures on their lawns, hire professionals to string LED holiday lights, and race to the stores on Thanksgiving night or Black Friday to score big ticket items for low prices. The bigger the car we drive is, the better. The bigger the house we own, the better. The bigger our Christmas tree, and the bigger, brighter, and noisier our holiday celebration, the better. Bigger makes us feel accomplished, better about ourselves. If we have a lot, we must be happy, successful, enviable! Right?
Not necessarily. Life doesn’t really work that way. If you don’t understand my meaning, life has not yet taught you enough hard lessons, or you firmly, happily believe bigger is better. And that’s fine, I guess - live and let live - but it’s just not me. To me, Christmas isn’t boisterous, excessive, or frivolous. It’s quiet, comfortable, mysterious. “Like all magnificent things, it’s very simple.” (author Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting). As Christmas unfolds, try not to get lost in the excess and miss it.