The first time I saw Christmas items in a retail store was in September. It was eighty degrees outside yet snowmen and Santas were smiling at me as I perused the aisle still looking for sunscreen, sundresses and fans.
The ridiculous amount of commercialism surrounding Christmas and even Thanksgiving has bothered me since I was in my teens. Every year, it seems like companies come out with more and more products for you to spend more and more money decorating your house for more and more people. It makes my head spin.
People compete, knowingly and sometimes unknowingly, with friends and family to see who can put out the most decoration, give the “best gifts,” and spend the most money to provide an experience that will be treasured for years to come.
Now, don’t misinterpret anything I’ve said thus far as me being a Christmas Scrooge. I’m the total opposite. I love Christmas! I love Thanksgiving! And I love the holiday season.
I enjoy the sights and sounds and pulling all my unique decorations out of boxes and positioning them throughout the house. I like seeing pictures online of unique trees. I like seeing people dressed up in their holiday garb. And I love the videos of children opening their toys on December 25.
However, it’s one thing to like all these things. It’s another to be consumed by it and that’s what I feel has happened to the holiday season. While the focus should be on love, family, friends, hope, relationships, fellowship and Jesus, if you believe in Him, I see the exact opposite.
A few years ago, I decided to stop spending so much money around the holidays. I noticed I was sending hundreds of dollars to give gifts to people whom I interact with all year long. I also noticed how stressful it had become for me to come up with the right gift idea or to go into the mall and stand in long lines waiting to get a good deal. It started to not make sense.
I’m big on quality time so that is where I focus my energy on during the holidays. I visit people. I show up at their events. I drop in at the house to tell them I love them. Sometimes I have a gift with me. Often, I don’t. Doesn’t mean I don’t love them. It just means I love me enough to know that I’m my best for them when I’m not stressed out because I ran around for hours trying to find them something that I can easily give them any time of the year.
And then I got hip to something. Gifts after the holidays are real winners! One, they’re discounted. And two, most people aren’t expecting them. So, when I show up on January 10th with gift in hand, the excitement is fulfilling.
To me, the holiday season was created to focus on the good in the world and the capacity of love we are meant to share. It’s not meant to go into debt and make you feel inadequate when you can’t “provide” the way you feel you should be able to.
This should be a time of the year that you enjoy. There is nothing wrong with shopping, gift giving, decorating, caroling or anything else associated with the holidays. The problem comes in when that becomes a bigger focus than family, friends and fellowship.
I encourage us all to embrace the holiday season and instead of allowing it to bring down your mood, find the parts of it you enjoy and roll with it. There is no need for it to be stressful. After all, you would be defeating the purpose of the season.
Happy Hanukah! Merry Christmas! Happy Kwanzaa! Happy New Year!