Walk into my Mother’s small villa-home from November 1st (yes, that’s right – November) and you walk into a Winter Wonderland. The place is covered in perfectly positioned Santas, baubles and any shabby chic Christmas decorations she has managed to get her hands on over the past 47 years. While some may call this obsessive, actually most probably would make that argument, Christmas time has and forever will be my favourite time of year thanks to the joy, happiness and traditions my Mother had in place growing up.
For many, including my family, Christmas isn’t always a great time of year. The mere thought of family gatherings send some people sick thinking about all that could go wrong. Bills generally seem to culminate at the end of the year, the same time you are searching for a few hundred (sometimes thousands) of dollars to cover gifts, cards, postage, food and everything that is expected at Christmas. It is understandable that the sight of a Christmas Tree drove my old housemate into an internal rage. Christmas is a stressful and anxious time of year.
In 2012, the holiday season sales reflected about 19.3 percent of the retail industries total sales in America for that year. The annual retail sales has been on a steady rise, climbing from a net worth of $2 Trillon in 2000 to $3.12 in 2013. With industries devoted entirely to Christmas goods and services, there is no doubt that for the consumer Christmas is expensive. As much as we can buy inexpensive gifts, be selective about who we buy for and limit our spending – ultimately these in some circumstances can perpetuate our anxieties and sometimes guilt.
As a child I was incredibly lucky. Living away from extended family, my parents never made us privy to the stresses of Christmas until we were much older. As with all families, some years were better than others, but ultimately it was love, excitement and happiness that radiated through my immediate family in the holiday period.
Now as an adult, I’d love to share with you the best lessons I have learned about the holiday season from my Mother that can make your Christmas season a little more bearable. After all, isn’t Christmas about sharing and kindness?
1. Go into the season prepared – I always write lists of who I want to buy gifts for. I divide them into my musts (eg, immediate family and closest friends), my would like to (eg, other good friends, close extended family members and teachers) and my feel obliged or unnecessary (extended family members you don’t see often, pets, friends you’ve drifted from). This gives you a more realistic approach and makes the budget cutting much easier. Having a list well in advance gives you plenty of time to churn in the back of your head gift ideas, and for those you may have forgotten to be remembered much sooner than if you leave it a week before Christmas when stores begin selling out of things more in your price range.
2. It’s okay to shop around – Don’t feel pressured to buy something right away because a salesperson tells you it’s perfect. You can look around, go online and compare, do price research. In fact, I encourage this! They amount of times I have found something someone would like, only to stumble across the perfect present a few days later I can’t count. Now, if I want to buy something I leave it for a few days before purchasing. This works well on buying things for yourself all year round too!
3. There will always be a Grinch, and that is okay! – Everyone has different experiences in life, and not everyone’s involved a happy picturesque Christmas family holiday. When you come across a Grinch, do not try to start an arguement with them – not only is it rude, but you’ll likely only fuel their fire more. Instead, share with them what you love about Christmas through your actions. Let them be in peace. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions just like everyone is entitled to their own beliefs.
4. Boxing day sales might seem like a good idea, but they almost always aren’t – This is a lesson I think I learnt through my mother’s inability to resist a boxing day sale. Yes, there are some great bargains, but buying things to store for a following 12 months is often excessive. Boxing day sales consist of the LEFTOVER Christmas stock. Often, stuff is slightly damaged, or for children’s gifts will be somewhat tacky. If you love a good bargain, you’d be better off buying things through the year during regular sales, including end of financial year sales, or the massive Toy sales Big W and Target have annually. The amount of times some of these “Boxing day bargains” were in cupboards for multiple years I can’t even count.
5. Don’t forget what the day is about – The influx of junk mail pressures you to buy the best for those you love, but don’t buy into their marketing strategies! Don’t lose sight of what really matters about Christmas. They joy and happiness with the people you love is more important than any monetary value. Your kid isn’t going to remember what presents you bought them (I seriously don’t even remember the Christmas I got my first bike – and that was a big one!) but they will remember the time you spent with them. My happiest memories are watching Home Alone with my family every Christmas Eve, so much so that we’ve all continued an annual revisit to the classic now we’re all adults and living separately. Letting someone know you love and cherish them is done through actions and words, not goods.
And finally, if it ever gets too much, stop and breathe. Call your mother, brother, best friend or whoever and tell them you love them. I guarantee a phone call to them will remind reassure your mind with clarity about what matters most.
* Please note, I grew up originally raised as a Christian, yet in my childhood myself and my immediate family became atheists of our own accord. Christmas had always been to me, and will continue to be, celebrating the people we love. I believe cherishing those important in your life is what matters most – no matter what religion you do or don’t choose to associate yourself with.