emanix

emanix


Maxine's Journal

Adventures of the Polka-Dotted One


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Why My House is a Christmas Free Zone.
emanix
emanix
Subtitle: Seriously, please don't buy me gifts.
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[Author's note: Some people have been sharing this on social media to seed their own debates about giving up Christmas. That's great, and it's a public journal post, so I'm always happy for folks to read it. However I'd like people to take into account that this is a personal post, aimed at people who might actually want to buy me christmas presents or invite me to involve myself in christmassy things, about what I personally would prefer and why. I'm not trying to tell anyone else what to do, or claim that my way is 'better' than anyone else's. If you happen to like christmas that's great, just please consider that not everyone else does, that some of them have very valid reasons for not doing so - and that 'I just don't want to' should be a valid enough reason for anybody.]

Dear Peoples,

This year (as I have for the past several years) I am declaring my house a Christmas Free Zone. I am excusing myself from participating in a pointless cultural habit.

Some of it is ideological: I am neither a Christian, a Pagan, nor a Capitalist, and while I think it's nice knowing that Isaac Newton was born on the 25th of December, I think he would appreciate the sentiment of my doing nothing at all to celebrate this fact, because he simply isn't around to see it.

Some of it is more practical: After almost a decade of short-term living situations and an entire year of living out of backpack, the idea of acquiring more Stuff gives me an almost-physical pain. I can't help imagining carrying the extra weight of this new item, whatever it is, or doing the calculation in my head, working out which item in my already full-to-capacity backpack I will have to give away, destroy, or otherwise leave behind in order to accommodate this new uninvited guest, however small.

Yes, I have a house right now, but my intention is to sell up and go back to being nomadic in the future. Every gift I receive now will have to be either carried or disposed of in the intervening time, every decoration must go the same way, and it hurts my heart to receive beautiful things knowing I can't keep them.

I'm not a complete grinch. I don't want to spoil anyone else's fun. I just question how much 'fun' is really involved in the rituals of compulsory gift-giving, emotional blackmail and gluttony that go alongside a traditional celebration of... what? The birth of a prophet who preached poverty, self-immolation and charitable giving? The turning of the seasons? It's never felt like a whole lot of fun to me.
Why not, then, spare a thought instead for folks who are less well off? Perhaps those who are out in the cold. Rather than indulging in ridiculously high calorie foods, making oneself miserable, or at best uncomfortable, with overindulgence, why not give the whole damn lot to a food bank? Why not the gifts too? Instead of buying yet another gift set of pre-wrapped toiletries, probably destined barely to be glanced over before being placed on a high shelf and left to gather dust, why not say to your friend, family member, colleague, 'Today I made the world a slightly better place'. Why not give to charity instead, or volunteer your time?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not against ever giving gifts. I love gift-giving. I just feel that gifts can happen the other 364 days of the year, for better reasons than 'a historical figure was born over 2000 years ago and probably nowhere near this time of year, so now I have to give you these socks that you didn't ask for...'. I have no objection to giving things to folks, especially if they're useful, wanted, well thought out. If they'll make life genuinely *better* rather than just fulfilling some sort of ritual expectation. I'll probably even be buying gifts for a few people this December, they just won't be christmas gifts.

If you're the sort of person who might have the urge to buy me a gift, I urge you please to reconsider. I have no need of more 'stuff' in my life – in fact, I need less. I have more than enough food, more than enough clothes, a warm place to live. The only thing I'm short on is time. I would rather hear that you had donated to charity on my behalf, or spent some time making the world a better place in some way. Some random act of kindness, or at the very least the carbon-neutral, pollution-free and mostly harmless act that is doing nothing at all.

There will be no christmas cards sent from my house, this year. There will be no tinsel, no baubles, and no tree. There will be no massive christmas dinner, or stressful family visits. Life, in fact, will carry on pretty much as usual, except perhaps a little quieter. Since I first went 'on strike' from christmas, several years ago now, midwinter has become a peaceful contemplative time for me to catch up with myself, my reading, and all of the bits and bobs that have built up through the year. I'll be sorting out my tax return, figuring out what I might be donating to charity on top of the steady stream of possessions I've been giving away over the last few months, and thinking about how I can contribute to the lives of friends and family through the rest of the year. I might get some DIY done.

Whatever I end up doing, I'm rather looking forward to the blissful peace of watching the hustle and bustle of the 'festive season' from a safe distance, and not being involved in any of it.

I guess you could say that this is the gift I'm giving myself.

Love and peace to everyone,

Maxine.

x

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Your house sounds like a very nice place to be over the holidays.

(Deleted comment)
Ooh, lovely lady you reminded me of an important chunk of this essay that I missed out: the practical, physical issue of me receiving gifts.

Edited to add two new relevant paragraphs:

Some of it is more practical: After almost a decade of short-term living situations and an entire year of living out of backpack, the idea of acquiring more Stuff gives me an almost-physical pain. I can't help imagining carrying the extra weight of this new item, whatever it is, or doing the calculation in my head, working out which thing in my already full to capacity backpack I will have to give away, destroy, or otherwise leave behind in order to accommodate this new uninvited guest, however small.

Yes, I have a house right now, but my intention is to sell up and go back to being nomadic in the future. Every gift I receive now will have to be either carried or disposed of in the intervening time, and it hurts my heart to receive beautiful things knowing I can't keep them.

--I do have partners for whom gift-giving is an expression of love. It actually is for me too, I love giving gifts, but since my backpack days my partners have all had to learn that, if they're not happy to simply doing something nice with each other, or making the world a better place in some way, gifts of Stuff must be carefully negotiated*, and either useful or consumable, and these things are usually better dealt with in person than by mail.

It's a year-round issue for me, it's just that christmas has the double whammy of also being a religious festival I don't celebrate, which is strongly tied in with gift-giving and peer pressure.

*Last year, while I was still living out of my backpack, my mum, bless her, bought me a wall calendar. While I had no walls. And was somehow surprised that I was impolite enough to explain to her that I had in fact regifted this to a friend who had a permanent place to live. Because y'know... walls? All of my partners and friends now know this story as a cautionary tale.

I'm with you on that. I hardly give gifts to anyone anymore, and then it's always something I'm pretty sure they need. Hubby's family has been getting steadily more extravagant every year to the point of true ridiculousness =/

It sounds like you have a good thing going though and as much as I love descending on a pile of presents, I'm also a little jealous of you!

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