Thursday, November 17, 2011

I don't care what you want for Christmas, Santa ain't buying that.

It's that time of year again.

We are not spiritual in any sort of organized manner, and I lost my religion right along with REM about 20 years ago. Because of this, our children have had very little exposure to Christianity - aside from Lucy's brief stint in a Catholic nursery school that had me on my knees by Easter. ("Mommy, do you know what sounds ouchy? A crown of thorns! And having nails hammered through your hands and feet!")

And so, Christmas has absolutely nothing to do with Christ in our house.
It has to do with presents. And boozy eggnog. For me, not the kids. Mostly.

Listen, they know the story: the manger, the wise men, the baby born in Bethlehem. But they also know about the Polar Express. In their minds, one does not stand above the other. And one is not truer than the other - they are both stories about the season that have been told and understood, but in one story the kid gets gifts of oils and a camel, in a barn, and in the other the kids get toys from Santa and a ride on a magic train with hot cocoa. They appreciate one, and they want the other one to happen to them. I, on the other hand, don't want to have anything to do with either scenario. I don't think that Christmas - as it is celebrated by the vast majority of people I know, anyway - reflects the religious beliefs upon which it is based. I feel the same way about Easter. I feel almost disrespectful celebrating religious holidays when I don't practice religion of any sort. I don't practice because I don't have a specific belief. (Except for the virgin birth part. I got pregnant without sex - IT CAN HAPPEN.)

I hate the secular form Christmas for many, many reasons. I have some personal memories and associations that bring up a lot of sadness and anxiety. And then, of course, there's the money thing. And I hate feeling forced to buy gifts. I so much prefer giving gifts "just because", or seeing something little and perfect and wrapping it up for later. And I can celebrate your birthday like no one else. But I just don't get excited about Christmas. I hate being stressed about getting everything wrapped and in the mail on time. I hate worrying about whether the gift I chose was appropriate/sufficient/appreciated/useful/unique/reflective of how I feel about the recipient. And then I realized that all of my concerns were totally of my own making.

The paragraph above is about buying gifts for OTHER PEOPLE and yet the word "I" appears ELEVEN TIMES. Holy megalomaniac.

So, in an effort to make this about something besides me and my issues and my issues with organized religion, we sat down tonight with the kids to work on some seriously secular Christmas lists. Our families like to send presents for the kids, and in a concerted effort not to ruin the holiday for my children - and to assuage some of my guilt about having people buy them things they don't need in honor of a religion we don't practice - we have decided that the best way to make Christmas lists is searching for gifts on sites like etsy.....and sites that offer free shipping. I buy mostly handmade or locally sourced gifts, because who doesn't like a present from Hawaii? but I am reasonable enough to accept that the kids want to get their hands on some toys. So we sat down with the computer and started taking notes.

We don't have cable TV, and the kids go to school off the grid in the jungle where they do things like pick fruit off of trees during we don't see commercials or much in the way of mass-produced toys. I have no idea what is out there, and not a clue as to what is "hot" this season. Don't get me wrong. I'll buy toys. Even plastic crap from China that will make me feel guilty. This isn't Little House on the Prairie for crying out loud - I'm not giving them a new whittling knife and a corncob doll. Well, I might - but they'll get other stuff too. My point is, we do have a different approach to choosing items for their wish lists. The kids have general ideas about what they want, I type it in the search box, and we see what comes up. (Yes Virginia, this is the modern day version of the Sears catalogue.)

Lucy wanted a scooter. We typed it in, a list of scooters came up, she chose the one she liked best, and BAM! Wishlisted.

Max wanted something called a Hexbug. I typed it in. And then I had a stroke.

First of all, it's gross. It's little and skittery and has a lot of legs and if he likes that damn thing so much why does he scream every time he sees a cockroach I ASK YOU WHY. I stared at him in the glow of the screen. "Are you serious?"

He stared at the screen. "Yessssss. I want that one." He pointed at some sort of plastic track that apparently these little yucky things were supposed to race around on. It was $45 dollars.

I shook my head. "No. I will not ask for that."

"It's my list."

"No. Absolutely not."

He glared. I glared back. I glared some more. I added the damn thing to his wish list.

I hate this holiday.

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