I have always loved Christmas. I revel in the holiday season as a whole. I wish I could say it was for some noble, baby Jesus reason, but nope. I love all the decorations, music, and rampant consumerism.
My love for Christmas goes hand in hand with my love of shopping. I am the odd person who rejoices when holiday decorations start going up before Halloween. I delight in finding the perfect gift for my friends and family. I love the looks on their faces when they open something I know they will enjoy. My decorations are bright and obnoxious and make me smile every time I look at them.
As you can see, there isn’t a whole lot of “traditional” going on with my decor. One of my favorite ornaments is this guy:
How could you not love that face? Last year, I acquired a turquoise sequin tree skirt in the after-Christmas blowout sales, and I can’t wait to put that thing on and watch the glitter bounce sparkles of light around the room. I also found a 7 foot tall silver tinsel tree for a song, since the above tree is a white one I sprayed silver, which just isn’t the same. Tacky? Perhaps. I don’t care one teeny, tiny bit. These things make me happy.
I have a huge family, so we celebrate at least four different Christmases. One at my paternal grandma’s, one with my husband’s family, one at my mom and dad’s, and Christmas morning at my parent’s again for stockings. The amount of gifts is ridiculous. I have pictures of the living room covered in wrapping paper and box detritus, but I am honestly too embarrassed to post them here. This is because I have been volunteering with a local non-profit for the past two years, and one of the areas I work with is the holiday giving program.
The program is amazing. Through fundraising, gift drives, adopt-a-family, and other efforts, the almost entirely volunteer-run program helps over 500 local families have a holiday that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford. On the adopt-a-family forms, people write three needs and three wishes. The needs are what one would typically expect — clothes, shoes, jackets, gift cards, socks, etc. The heartbreaking part is when you get to the “wish” side and realize it is almost always an extension of the “needs” column. When underwear and socks show up under “wishes” for an eight-year-old, it is crushing. When you see a seven-year-old request a microwave for their mom in lieu of a toy for themselves, you wonder how the world has gotten to be as shitty as it is. When a 13-year-old girl with exceptionally large breasts asks for a regular bra and a sports bra for P.E. class, you tear up because a family is unable to afford these outrageously priced undergarments.
These people need things. I don’t need shit. Sure, there are things I want. There will always be things I want, like a pneumatic staple gun (I reupholstered two chairs this weekend and my hand is still fucked up from the manual one), but need? No. So this year, after years of going astronomically overboard, we are drawing one name and setting a spending limit of$100. My parents are adopting a family. My husband and I will also adopt a family. Hopefully, some other family members might want to chip in. Either way, the excess will be kept to a minimum, and hopefully we can brighten another family’s day. It is a new tradition, and one I look forward to celebrating every year with as much excitement as I did the old one.
I know it is a bit early to be talking holidays, but some of these locally run programs have early December cut-offs, so I wanted to bring it up sooner than December, in case other members of the P-Mag community ever thought of doing something similar. While the organization I work with gladly accepts donations all year long, many donors are disappointed to miss out on the chance to do specific holiday-tailored events when they call in mid-December. The economy is still utter crap for huge swaths of the population, but if you are in a position to give, please contact your favorite charity or local non-profits to see what needs they have. If money isn’t an option, many places also need volunteers to help sort, wrap, and deliver packages. Or, if your family is struggling this year, please reach out and see if there is help through local agencies.
How about you? Does your family have any special holiday traditions around giving? Have you found yourselves cutting back due to the economy? Any creative or non-traditional customs you do with your family or friends?