Monday, December 8, 2008

Unplug the Christmas Machine, part 4

"For most people, the real problem with Christmas isn't that they are spiritually bankrupt or that Christmas is devoid of meaning. It's simply that they haven't taken the time to define for themselves what's most important to them about Christmas." --taken from Unplug the Christmas Machine

The authors observe that many of us plan out the details of our celebrations "right down to the kind of cranberry sauce" without first asking ourselves: Why am I celebrating Christmas? What is most important to me when I consider the Christmas season?

I don't know that I had really sat down to think about these questions so directly. From my reflections on what is important to me about Christmas, I realized that I want to place more of an emphasis on Advent and on the spiritual significance of the season. In addition, I highly value being together with family so I want to take that into account when planning activities and making outside commitments. I also think traditions are very important, and I'm excited for Eric and I to continue developing this aspect of our holiday. As I mentioned in the post on gifts, I hope that we will be able to refine our approach to gift giving as well.

Another exercise Kim gave me during our afternoon together was to imagine myself in the following situations and to select the one I found most satisfying:

A. You unexpectedly receive a check in the mail for $500 to spend on Christmas gifts.
B. You have the next two weeks totally free of responsibilities (including your job and the care of children) so that you can devote all your time to making Christmas gifts.
C. All your friends and relatives decide to scale down their gift giving this year, happily exchanging stocking stuffers instead of more elaborate gifts.
D. Gifts are reserved for young children. Adults celebrate by feasting, worshipping, partying, singing and playing games.

I'd love to hear from you: Which of these four imaginary situations seems most satisfying to you and why? I think I know what my sister would choose. =)

To end the series, here is the Christmas Pledge from the book that inspired these posts:

Believing in the true spirit of Christmas, I commit myself to
*remember those who truly need my gifts
*express my love in more direct ways than gifts
*examine my holiday activities in light of my deepest values
*be a peacemaker within my circle of family and friends
*rededicate myself to my spiritual growth

Thanks again for joining me in this series. There were many additional topics I had hoped to write about, including traditions, but the expanse of material available was too much to cover everything and I needed to follow the theme here and simplify. There's always next year!

I appreciated the depth in the comments from the week, and I always enjoy reading your ideas and hearing how some of these thoughts have challenged you. If you'd like to read some additional blog posts on "Simply Celebrating Christmas," Keeper of the Home hosted a wonderful carnival on that theme this past weekend. You can also read a review I did last year of the book Hundred Dollar Holiday.


thehomespunheart said...

TWO WHOLE WEEKS???!!! Yes, you are right you know which one I would choose! But, you didn't say which one yours was and I wasn't sure reading through the list ...

Love you -

Grace said...

I think I would choose the first one. while I would love to make all my gifts, unfortunately my family is not all that into homemade gifts, especially the men. :( and we all Love to get gifts ( that probably sounds bad) but we love watching everyone open their gifts and the anticipation of opening our own. So the last two would kinda be a disappointment. So the first would take the stress out of having to buy everyone gifts.

I would be afraid I would just sit in a daze if I had TWO whole weeks too myself. I wander around not knowing where to start with 2 whole hours. HA!

Mary Ann said...

It's a toss-up between B and C. I love to make gifts but tend but I usually run out of time after a while. C appeals to me because of the simplicity of only buying little things and knowing that everyone else is doing the same thing.
My husband and I decided yesterday to just do stockings for each other and then take the money from our Christmas budget for each other and plan an outing/ do something that we will really enjoy. We don't know what we're doing yet, but you would not believe the load of stress that took off of me since I had NO IDEA what to get him this year.

Plus it gives us something to look forward to during the more dreary months of January and February.

Jenny said...

It is hitting me that Christmas is in 2 weeks. I started to panick a little about all the things I have not gotten done. But relized that if getting gifts off did not happen as I had planned it would be OK. I am cutting my list of expectations again. Being real about how I want to spend my holiday. Certainly not stressed out. You always get me thinking.

Amy said...

It would be a toss up between the time to craft and the scaled down Christmas. It is so hard to get in all my crafting time that I would like so that would be really welcome. At the same time, both sides of our family have agreed to scale down CONSIDERABLY and I have to say that the pressure has been so much less this year. I almost feel a little guilty because it wasn't this big grand event with the shopping like usual ;) You have to love that!

This is such a fun discussion, Carrie!

Tracy said...

I'm a horrible, awful "crafter" and no amount of time would fix that I'm afraid! Although combining the $500 to spend with the two weeks with no job and children would be awesome! I love to give presents but too often I feel like I picked a present without enough thought. I love, love, love to give gifts so I'm definitly going with #1.

We are fortunate to have lots of extended family Christmases (my and my husband's grandparents etc.). At those holidays only the kids get presents and the adults hang out and pig out. At one party we have "sharing time" where we talk about the lessons the Lord has taught us this year. THE BEST time all year...although it takes 3 hours some years!

Anonymous said...

I am so relieved to see that I'm not the only one choosing $500. I felt a little guilty about that until I read the comments you have so far.

My son and daughter are full time college students. I work full time and attend college classes at night. Money is a little scarce right now for all of us. It would be so nice to be able to buy things for them that they need/want but won't buy for themselves.

I would also have tons of money left over to participate in toys for tots, mitten trees, etc. That is what we normally do with our extra money at this time of year. Even though we aren't well off, we feel we are blessed with so much that we want to share. I'm blessed for having young adult children with tender hearts like that.

As for family and friends, we all chose years ago that we prefer not giving gifts, but giving time to each other. Our holidays are filled with get togethers full of chatter, laughter, and of course, food. We all enjoy not having any stress at this time of year. The only relative I really buy for is my 11 year old niece. And her mother thinks the gift my niece would choose is a thrift store shopping day with me! Isn't that fun!


Kara K said...

Carrie -
Toss up between number one and number two. Two weeks with no responsibilites sounds like a vacation from heaven (and me with no children!) but the extra money would be delightful in fulfilling some Christmas wishes.

Ewokgirl said...

Hmmm... While I love to make stuff, I usually already possess the time with which to accomplish that. So, I'll choose the $500 option. I love to give gifts, and I wish I could give more extravagantly. My parents are so generous with us, so I'd absolutely love to be able to give them something fabulous.

kristin said...

I loved reading all of this series! Thanks for the time you put into it as I'm sure it took quite a bit! This is a hard call for me, but I think I would go with option A. I would love to give more and to more people but am limited by our budget for sure. However, I would also be okay with option C of scaling things back as it would simplify. I know presents aren't the focus of Christmas, but it's such a fun way to celebrate. And I think it's fun to be a blessing to others through gifts, as I know I have been blessed greatly by them!

Abbey said...

I, like many others, am struggling between B and C. The idea of two weeks without responsibilities is amazing! Partially because, as a SAHM, I might not LIKE being away from my children so much. But I like crafts and rarely have the time anymore. I remember the year I made my brother a t-shirt quilt, and a few relatives a table runner as one of my favorites. If I could make most of my gifts every year, I would be such a happy woman! We give plates of homemade cookies to friends and that's one of my favorite things each year.

I also like C because it would keep all of us from accumulating lots of junky trinkets and stuff during the holidays. I love giving food and cookies to friends each year because it avoids that issue as well.

Another idea I've often thought would be great amongst family, but sadly wouldn't work with mine, since we're so spread out, would be to give non-material gifts for Christmas. A date night for two stressed out parents, complete with babysitting. Or a nice home-cooked meal or a bathroom cleaning for a single guy. This kind of agrees with the last one, since reflection would also be a nice non-material gift.

What a hard choice! What do you think, Carrie?

Jeremy and Christa Nichols said...

I love C and D. Althought I'm a gifty person, I hate for the whole process of gifting to take over. I'd much rather just spend time with people.