They say this is the time for families to come together; to pause and relax; to celebrate and to enjoy something very special together: time that is.
Christmas is approaching and when I walk down the high street or just dare to enter a shop (yes, any shop), all that relaxation and calmness get blown up by a killing Christmas industry. Overpriced battery-operated plastic toys ‘Made in China’ (which will last, well, maybe for couple of months), the hundredths version of ‘Jingle Bells’ blasting off your head, and cheap sugary chocolates to turn your children into hyperactive Christmas addicts. And the good news are: You’re paying for it. Double. Triple or even more of the normal retail price. Why? Because it’s just Christmas. Oh joy!
Don’t get me wrong: I love Christmas. This is not a post saying that I want to get rid of it. Quite the contrary. I’m just so fed up that this hype is getting bigger and bigger. Not only that big supermarket chains start selling Christmas stuff already in September; but that also so called marketing experts target one specific group of our society: Our children. Big companies have understood that it’s not the parents they need to convince, it’s the kids. Because they will make a fuss about a certain new desirable toy until Mama and Papa finally give in and say ‘Yes, put it on your wish list for Christmas’.
This way parents keep their sanity and hopefully peace on the big day: Christmas day. But at what costs? Through my work with families in the past, I too often experienced one vicious circle happening to many: In December families would go into debts to buy Christmas presents. Some would even turn to pay-day lenders or even worse loan sharks. The big Christmas bubble wouldn’t last long and it just popped like an overheated balloon. The consequences were drastic enough: Debts to pay off for months, sometimes for years.
Another point I really can’t stand is all the artificial stress (which often becomes then too real) and fuss around the big season. Parenting is tough enough. Our days start early and if everything goes well, we might be able to relax for an hour or two in the evening, before we fall into bed. Who would want any additional stress? Not me.
So, I’m not prepared to turn my Christmas into a hyper-stress-and-making-me-poor event to please a money-making-industry or anyone else. For years my family and I have been celebrating Christmas in a simple and easy way. Yes, the kids get some presents (normally about two for each of them). Yes, they are excited about it and they bounce up and down.
But for me it’s all about that one thing: My family. Taking the time to enjoy each other and to cook some special food. I remember last year when my wife and I sat on our sofa with a glass of wine and just watched the kids. We had spent all day outside and now enjoyed the warmth of our home. The children had a great time and suddenly started making music. Candles were lit and a great smell of Christmas spices and good food filled the air. No hectic, no stress. It felt so right to me.
So, get it right this year. What about inviting some of your neighbours for a nice dinner (everyone brings something to share), or you could just spend long hours in wintery woods (and make a fire)? Why not volunteer somewhere where people really need help? Take your kids with you to show them what the real spirit of Christmas can mean. Or you could just go with this idea: We have some friends who don’t do any presents. Instead they take their kids for a short holiday somewhere in the countryside.
Of course, celebrate Christmas (or whatever you call it) the way you like it. But if you feel it’s all getting too much, bring it a gear down. Talk to your partner and kids about it and put some changes into place, so the festive season will work for all of you. Because Christmas is not about money, it’s about you and your family.