Christmas is celebrated by traditions and cultures. Originally designated and arbitrarily set as the birthday of the Christ, it has evolved into a day of good will and festivities, not necessarily related to its religious significance.
As a child it was the biggest celebration of the year. Mother was really into Christmas. Her birthday was Christmas Eve, which usually meant all her gifts served a 2-fold purpose: birthday and Christmas. Dad was less into Christmas rituals, but he worked 7a.m. to 7p.m., 6 days/week. He left most of Christmas up to Mother.
Shopping for gifts meant mainly mail order, because Mother did not drive. Wondrous, mysterious packages arrived at various intervals, starting before Thanksgiving. Occasionally Dad carried her to the business district, shopping in the evenings. Early in my life Texas had a "blue" law- no sales on Sunday.
In our early years Santa Claus brought us our gifts, with only a few gift-wrapped under the tree. Mother keep lists of what she spent on each of us, trying to be sure her three children had the same value and number of gifts. That must have been a juggling act of the budget, in and of itself.
As my parents entered old age I noticed much less decorations and celebrations. Of course their married children were into their own celebrations; usually I was residing somewhere distantly, like Dallas TX, Baltimore MD, Morocco, Denton TX. I was single until age 33, but I loved to roam, much more than any other family member.
Now that my husband and I are entering our older decades, I see why their celebrations became smaller and less taxing on energy. Moving to Arkansas in our forties, we continued our own celebratory traditions, which involved extensive decorating, gifts, and inviting friends for feasts of gluttony. My husband decorated the neighborhood with lighted displays.
For several years my best friend and I organized a free Christmas Dinner, cooked and served at City Hall. The purpose was for persons living alone to have some fellowship on Christmas Day. Our town has numerous retirees, many of which live alone. The first year we served over 100 persons. Each year it grew until we were serving over 400, at which time it became too large for us and our volunteers. The local VFW took over the program.
During this time we continued our personal traditions, sometimes postponed to New Year's Eve or Day.
Nearly 30 years have passed and our celebrations have become burdens, not only to us but most of our circle of friends. And somehow, I find our previous years have sugar coated the original meaning of Christmas into glitzy, weary, shopping forays and eating orgies. It is time to get off the insane Christmas Tradition Train and redesign our Christmas traditions to more nearly conform to peace and GOOD WILL to all.
Prodded by the visible misery of the economic downturn in our area, my group of friends are foregoing the usually gifts, many of which went unused, and the food orgies. None of us are in the Fortune 500, but are blessed so much more than many around us who are without jobs, losing homes, sleeping in cars, and depressed.
Instead our designated Christmas funds are being channeled into various needs in our community. My best friend adopted a family from the Christmas Wish program sponsored by her newspaper job. Another friend is donating to the local food pantry, whose shelves are often empty these days, and also Heifer International.
We personally are contributing to Christmas for children in Panama, two families with children through our church life group, and a Christmas church project in Tulsa OK, which is focused on broken families with drug and alcoholic abuse problems. I am buying small Christmas token gifts for our TeleCare clients.
We are investigating a local single mother with children recommended by our Police chief. There may be other projects. After all it is only Dec. 2.
I will probably put up a small Christmas decoration so I can put Luckie's chipmunk toy out Christmas Eve.
We mutually agreed to each buy one gift we want and call it Christmas from each other to each other. I ordered the customized laptop I earned for losing 25 lbs. and since it is pricey, it is Christmas for me, too. [It will probably be Christmas before it gets here, as the FedEx tracking # shows it missed the boat, hmm-air transit date, in China!]
Somehow, this change is comfortable and exciting, for us as opposed to the frenzied activities of previous years, when we collapsed from overeating in a heap before the Christmas tree, to open gifts between, burps and gas releases.
P.S. I, the NitWit, am fixated and fascinated with the TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS!