Break the Christmas Craziness

December 12, 2008

I am not a religious person.  However, I watched this video and was moved by the message – spend less, give more of yourself, simplify Christmas, live simply so that others may simply live.

The Advent Conspiracy

According to this, it would cost $10 billion to provide safe drinking water to every person on the planet.  Yet Americans spent over $450 billion on Christmas last year and many people still lack safe drinking water and die from diseases caused by water contamination.

Something to think about.   Every pebble into the pond causes ripples all the way to the edge.  Every dollar we spend in the United States affects, advertently or inadvertently, someone living in dire poverty in the third world.

The time is upon us…..The time every person struggling to simplify their lives dreads…..the holidays.  If there is one truth to American culture, it is that if we can take something simple and wonderful and make it complex, tense, edgy, competitive and expensive….we will do it!

Don’t dread the holidays and let Americanism ruin this joyful season, just let go.  We let go two years ago and the holidays have been wonderful ever since.  Here are some things we are going to do this year to keep to our goals of simple living with little consumerism.

Thanksgiving – I don’t know about you but I hate spending hours upon hours cooking food that will be eaten in a 15 minute orgy of gluttony.  So I am not.  So as to not give up the traditional fare, we have found plenty of places now that will prepare the entire Thanksgiving meal for little extra expense. However, to me the added cost is a benefit of me not having to spend an entire day worrying over a bird.  My sister and I have made plans to order in from a local barbecue joint – a 15 lb turkey and cornbread dressing for just $30.  For just $30 they will cook all the sides too!  We can spend an hour or so making the sides of potatoes, gravy, and vegetables without spending time worrying over the bird. 

So what are we going to do with that extra time?  We are going to hike through the greenbelt close to our home.  It will give us great exercise, some outdoor time together away from the television and my family loves hiking.  We will take my big dog and my sister’s little dog, we will have my niece’s father who is a career marine so puts all of us to shame with his chiseled physique and we will spend a few hours and some serious miles going up and down the rugged hills of our home.

Decorating for Christmas – If you are like many Americans and have Friday after Thanksgiving off, you could have your decorating done in a flash by usuing the worst shopping day of the year to avoid the stores and decorate for the holidays.  A little organization and what could be a week’s worth of annoyance carting boxes down from the attic, putting up lights, dusting off figurines turns into a fun fest.  My own simple living family has a tradition of a “working lunch” buffet on the kitchen bar, some Christmas tunes on the cd player and viola, holiday spirit.  We are usually finished in a little under a half of a day and in plenty of time to see the kick off for our big college rivalry football game (something my two fellas won’t dare miss) and are looking forward to the next month of exciting activities.

Shopping – This is easy, this is my favorite.  We do all of our shopping online, exclusively.   We are being green by having the mail carrier deliver our packages rather than us also making repeated trips to the store, we are avoiding the crowds and the over-stimulation of the mall, and we don’t have to worry about impulse shopping sending our budget into the stratosphere.  Usually we can combine items and get free shipping but even paying extra for shipping is worth it to me.  I have a low tolerance for shopping on a good day, much less the busiest shopping season of the year.

Fun, simple activities for the family to slow down and enjoy the holiday season.

1.  Make a weekly date for hot chocolate (or in our case, milkshakes) and light displays.   Every Sunday evening, beginning with the Sunday after Thanksgiving, we drive to a local hamburger joint for shakes.  Then we drive back through the neighborhoods and look at the light displays.  It is fun to see the change from one Sunday to the next as people decorate for Christmas and the shakes are a nice treat and have become something to look forward to all year long.

2.  Free concerts or community lighting displays.   Almost every city has one or more of these.  Take time to get out and partake of the free seasonal activities in your area.  You will find the season far more pleasant spent in a festive atmosphere than at home in front of the television.

3.  Practice Advent Sunday’s.  For those of a practicing Christian religion, take a page out of the Catholic, Lutheran and Episcopalian playbook.   While some of you may not agree with their brand of practicing, you have to admit, they know how to make things special. These three denominations love pageantry and dedicate every Sunday during the Advent season as a special celebration.  We don’t practice any particular religion but we have kept Advent Sundays from our Lutheran days and have adapted them to fit our own particular belief system.   You can create an advent wreath for your table and take the time to prepare and enjoy a special meal as a family on each Sunday of Advent. 

4.  Create homemade ornaments for the Christmas tree with your kids.  These will be special treasures as the kids grow up and leave the nest.  You will be able to look at them and remember the wonderful seasons you spent with your children.

5.  When all else fails, bake cookies, even if you can’t bake.  I admit, I am particularly baking challenged.  I can’t bake and our homemade cookies always fail miserably but we always have a great time trying (and failing) together.  It has been the source of many giggles and funny stories from my son over the years.  (shhh, don’t tell anyone but I always keep a roll of those pre-made dough cookies in the fridge to have after we have failed miserably at the homemade sort).