“Every thing you own takes energy away from you.” (Paul Graham)
I found this great article about stuff… I recommend reading it. It seems fitting, what with Christmas in less than 1 week- and it’s a good way to start a discussion about my withdrawal from the traditional American/Canadian obligatory stuff exchange that accompanies this holiday.
I grew up in, and also married into, tight-knit households that cherish Christmas as a highly celebrated event. The first year or two after we moved to Vancouver away from our South Dakota families, I tried to recreate a version of Christmas in our small urban apartment, but it never felt quite right. There just wasn’t enough belief behind the actions… I am a believer in the Oneness of Humankind but I simply have decided to stop celebrating Christmas- or the version I knew as a child- in my own household. I still put up a tiny tree and some twinkle lights, but mostly out of habit and to give a little festive feel to our dark apartment (this choice and the motivation behind it seems to have more in common with Solstice celebrations than Christian).
About 4 years ago I stopped sending out a mass mailing of Christmas cards to everyone I knew. Instead, in the few days that we have off over the winter break, I sit down and make about a dozen ‘winter greetings’ cards that I put my time and love into creating, and I send only to a few relatives/friends. The list gets to be very short when you are hand-making the cards. VERY SHORT. So here’s my criteria for sending a card- do I correspond with this person throughout the rest of the year by snail-mail? And/or is this someone who will truly appreciate a handmade card? (Great Aunt Flory) HEY, don’t take it personally if you don’t get a card from me.
I’ve also slowly been checking myself out of the obligatory gift giving that accompanies the Christian holiday, and after a few years of this, no-one has yet commented on my lack of giving… (Like my card list, my gift giving list is also very short.) If I want to give a gift or send a card, I first have to make the CHOICE to do so. And I appreciate this as an opportunity to exchange a meaningful gift with mother-in-law or dear friend.
If I chose to give gifts, (and yes, I occasionally recycle gifts- things I know other people will appreciate more than me) I sincerely hope that the object will add to the quality of life of the individual who is receiving it AND, if possible, the maker of the gift. I am more likely to purchase something if I can shake the hand of the person who made it. The positive affects of spending $20 on a mug from a craft fair will touch the potter in your community MUCH more directly than buying a $5 mug from Walmart that is mass produced in China. Sure, the direct cost out of my pocket is more, but I’d much rather pay more for something handmade knowing that the value to my community is much greater. Supporting our local creative economy and sharing a bit of handmade quality with someone we care for- now that is the gift that keeps on giving.
Why we need to reassess how/why/what we give: Story of Stuff