I've been thinking about this a lot over the past few weeks. For the first time in my entire life I'm separated from all but one person with whom I spend time around December 25th. While I don't adhere to the belief systems that celebrate the birth of Jesus, others in my usual crowd of family and close friends do to one degree or another. This got me to questioning myself while I was out shopping for that one, non-religious person left from my inner circle. Does this mean all I really am is a consumer whore who's been hiding behind the skirts of the believers all these years?
It's hard to face the idea that all I am is a member of the mindless horde combing the stores for stuff, regardless of how thoughtful and/or useful the gifts are, in order to justify time off work for a statutory holiday that has nothing to do with my beliefs. But after some soul searching I can answer the above question with a wobbly, 'no.' The following are the reasons why.
I love giving. Truly and honestly love giving. The receiving isn't bad either, but for me it's about spending a lot of time thinking about what I can make or find for that other person. While I didn't do so well making gifts this year, I generally craft up to 75% of what I give. I think it's understandable that that percentage is a big, fat, round 0 this year. I've been a bit more than busy. Those gifts I do buy tend to be in support of smaller, local businesses that often don't have the large pull bigger, international stores do. Yes, that part is definitely consumerism, but it's also a way for me to support an economy I believe in. (Didn't do so well with that aspect this year, either, sigh.)
Then there are the socks. You know what I'm talking about. The wild and crazy socks I've been knitting over the past decade or so. If you haven't received a pair yet it's just a matter of time. Now those, I do for myself. Yup, I'll admit it, the socks are a bit of a selfish gift. I love making them so much I usually have a massive smile plastered on my face from the time I start hunting for the wacky yarn to the moment I finish tucking in the last of the ends. Does it help make it seem less selfish if I say that I'm smiling because I'm imagining the grin on your face every time you pull on your handmade, rainbow-striped, fuzzy socks?
Ok, so I'm a thoughtful gift-giver. It kind of justifies the gift part of the holiday. But I'm not sure it's really necessary to find a reason to support giving gifts. So what's left?
I think the key element is quality time with the people I love. Family is a big part of the meaning behind x-mas for me. And I don't mean just my bio-family, I'm including an extended set of chosen family in this definition. If the government is going to give me time off with pay so that I can spend hours cooking, eating, debating, laughing and all the other things I do with the people who are most important to me, then I'm going to say, 'thank you!' and leave it at that. Which makes X-Mas another date on the calender reserved for my family, along with Thanksgiving and Easter.
Reading over this I'm realizing that I've stated the obvious. It was even obvious to me in the past (I guess the change of scenery has sparked a re-evaluation of my habits). I'm happily molding someone else's religious day to suite my own needs. Isn't that what the Christians did when they moved Jesus's birthday to it's current date? If they can justify rearranging their calendar to blend better with another culture, then I sure as pie don't need to worry about ramifications for my adaptation of Christmas.
After all that, I just want to let my family know I'm thinking about them. I'll have to send out the socks later, tho. It's hard to motivate the little knitter inside when it's summer in December.
And now for photos!
Some more pix of my garden in bloom.
The neighbourhood in bloom, bumblebees hard at work.
On my way to work.
Ahead is work.
Behind is the way home.