Anyone who knows me well, knows that I am something of a Christmas fanatic. As soon as Halloween is over, its game on, and it looks like Christmas threw up in my house. I own a tacky sweater, a singing Santa, and there are glowing reindeer on my lawn. I send cards, I pump Christmas tunes 24/7 and a big glittering tree stands in my living room. I’m also one of those annoying people who painstakingly repositions elves around my home for 24 days. I had someone close to me once say that all that stuff is just commercialism, when did Christmas become about stuff? Well, I’m here to tell you that I buy into commercialism at Christmas time, but not for the reasons you might think…
Things were not always peaches-and-cream in my childhood, but I have such fond memories of Christmas time. My mother went to great lengths to create a sense of wonder and magic for my sisters and I, despite the fact that she was flying solo and we didn’t always have everything we needed. Sometimes our decorations were handmade, because construction paper and strings of popcorn are cheaper than store-bought decorations. Some years weren’t as hard as others, so we would donate food to the food bank, or sponsor a child in a third-world country. I remember writing them letters, their pictures on our refrigerator served as a constant reminder of those less fortunate. But other times, we were the ones who needed the food bank. Sometimes we depended on the help of others. The things I remember most about my childhood at Christmas time are things like singing songs with my family, or making banana bread. Holiday dinners at our house involved an open invitation to anyone without a holiday dinner of their own to go to, just add more potatoes to the pot. I give my mom full credit for teaching me to love Christmas, but she showed me the true meaning of Christmas, and my traditions help me to carry on her message. You see, this is my third Christmas without her. And the best and only way to cherish her memory is to pass along the meaning of Christmas to my children.
Tacky decorations adorn my home and there are neatly wrapped presents beneath my tree, but I also make a great effort to be charitable, and to teach my children about how blessed they are. Helping my kids to have a sense of gratitude is important to me, so I make sure they understand that there are those less fortunate, and we help whenever we can. Of course my kids are looking forward to opening gifts on Christmas morning, but they understand that there are children who will be lucky to have food, let alone presents. If you ask them what the meaning of Christmas is, they will tell you it is a time to show your loved ones how much you care. A time of togetherness. I lost a piece of my heart when breast cancer stole my mom, I would trade every material possession I own to hug her one more time. So I hold my kids close, and I make damn sure to spend time with my loved ones and tell them how I feel.
There is a stack of glittery cards on my table, complete with snowman stickers, ready to be sent out. I buy into this form of ‘Christmas commercialism’ because I want people to know I am thinking of them. Some of my family and friends live far away, and I can’t see them as often as I would like. They don’t get to watch my children grow. And living away from your family is tough, a lot of people get pretty lonely at this time of year. Just google ‘suicide rates at Christmas time’, you will want to reach out to your loved ones. So I send pretty sparkly cards with my kids’ school pictures and Santa pictures. I try to keep it simple, they are dollar-store cards and stickers, and the Walmart photo centre printed off all my pictures for less than ten bucks. The stamps add up quickly, so I don’t judge if others can’t afford to send me cards back, but I make a point to send them because if it will brighten someone’s holiday, then it was worth the expense.
Twinkling lights might be a sign of commercialism to some, but for me? They create a sense of community and hope. The days are short, there are people who suffer from seasonal sadness because of a lack of sunlight. It is cold, so people are often stuck indoors. So when they come out of their homes on a cold, dark December night, I want them to find hope in the glowing wicker reindeer in front of my house. The neighbour’s houses are similarly lit up, like a show of solidarity, breaking the darkness. The colourful flowers have long-since withered up and died, but we can bring colour back to the world with a string of pretty lights. Colours have a powerful effect on our mood, did you know? And it was a shining light in the sky that brought Christmas Day into existence, so I tend to think that there is a little more meaning to my lights than trying to keep up with the Jones’.
Does my collection of Christmas music seem commercial to you? Some of my favourite holiday songs are the ones that remind us of how fortunate we are. There are fun songs about Frosty and Santa, and I sing those songs with my kids, like my mom did with me. But I also listen to the hard songs about people who suffer or grieve, and about the story of Christmas. I take every opportunity to count my blessings, and music speaks right to my soul. There are a solid number of songs that I can’t sing along to without crying for the world, and for those who will never know the things that we come to take for granted.
There are a surprising number of people out there who get their knickers in a knot about the Elf on a Shelf, so I’m going to explain why my intentions with starting this tradition are far from commercial. I was not raised in a religious home, but I was taught to form my own beliefs about the great beyond. I was taught to believe in magic, fairies, leprechauns, and elves. Sometimes there are things that happen that can’t be explained. Sometimes there are things that we must learn to have faith in, things we can’t hold in our hands. I miss my mom terribly at any given moment, but especially as Christmas. Carrying on her traditions and forming new ones is how I move forward. I’m passing on what she taught me about believing in the magical and unseen beauty of the world. I’m not trying to create something Pinterest worthy, I’m trying to create memories that my children will treasure as they grow older and begin to feel disillusioned about the world. You have to learn to find the magic.
You might say I buy into commercialism at Christmas; I buy into pretty paper and bows, peppermint, and stockings filled with candy. But I am also the kind of person who will give hand-made gifts like baked goodies, or a beaded necklace, and I am happy to volunteer my time to help others. We purchase our tree from the Boy Scouts to support their organization, and help with fundraising initiatives in our school at the holiday concert. I love Charlie Brown’s sad little tree, and when the Whos down in Who-ville stand together and sing because nothing else matters, my heart grows three sizes. My mom is not here, but it was her dying wish that I carry on her tradition of bringing family together at Christmas, so I try my very best to do just that. My family has known great loss in recent years, so we take comfort in each other, and there is nothing we do without a sense of gratitude. I buy into commercialism to carry on my mom’s traditions, and with any luck, my kids will as well.