Sunday, November 23, 2008

The spirit of Christmas, revisited.

Okay, it seems I came off a little *harsh* in my last post. Ops! Didn't realize there was actually somebody reading this thing ;)
I think it's wonderful that people spend their hard earned money on gifts for other people. I think it's tragic that some people max out their credit cards every year because they feel compelled to express their love with gifts they can't afford.
If someone happens to buy me a gift this year, I will say "Thank you very much! Merry Christmas!" and I will not turn my nose up because it's not "home made" I will feel very grateful that I have received a gift at all.
It may even be possible (maybe just a little) that I'm over compensating for the fact that this year I can't afford to buy as many gifts as I'd like to, or spend as much on gifts as I would like to. In previous years making gifts was more of a statement than a necessity.
I absolutely hate the fact that somewhere inside I feel really guilty that I can't buy stuff this Christmas.
Are these my own personal issues, or is this a larger problem everyone is suffering from this year?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Christmas Spirt

No, it's not too early to be thinking about Christmas.
Yes it drives me crazy that the decorations go up in the mall the day after Halloween. (So many years working retail management has given me a healthy loathing for malls in November and December, and I try to stay far, far away from them.) And yes I hate the fact that the focus of Christmas is shopping, shopping and more shopping. Also I hate the fact that so many adverts push warm fuzzies on us for months, building all our expectations of Christmas bliss so we go off to celebrate with our (somewhat) dysfunctional families thinking (at least a little) "Hmmm, it's not like in the commercials." Do I sound a little bitter? Well, working open to close on christmas Eve and then being there on boxing day (the launch of boxing week....) at 6am tends to put a damper on celebrations now matter how festive I try to be.
Now, I state again; It's not too early to be thinking about Christmas. In fact if you're just starting now, you're behind schedule. I started planning in the summer. While I'm not going to achive my goal of a 100% homemade Chrsitmas, I'm getting closer every year. In the late summer I was picking fruit, then packing and freezing, and gathering then testing recipies for homemade jam. It's not as easy as you would think and it's extremly time consuming. Also unlike the shiny crap you buy it the store, if you don't follow regrious safety precautions you gifts could make people very sick. (And please don't tell me that your great grandmother made jam for generations before moderin sterilization techniques without fist considering the average life expentancey in your great grandmother's time and all the "natural" causes that killed people.) Making jam is much harder than I thought. I'm just hoping it will be worth it.
Making all your gifts is great, but it's one heck of a challenge. I mean how many years can you really get away with giving everyone a scarf and hat you knitted yourself? Well, I'm running on the fourth and it's time for a change. I've had some bright ideas, and thinking about possibilties throughout the years makes it easier. Also working on it in little bits when you have time, not trying to squeeze it all into two months makes it more fun. I'd like to try my hand at making jewlery one year but that's really my sister-in-law's gig and I don't want to move in on her teritory (I also suspect that she's better at it than I am.) I found some amazing books on toy making at the library, but it's too late to do many this year, if I have time I will attempt a couple, and possibly launch a full scale attack next year. I occationally give art, but that the exception not the rule.
Of course there will be my usual flurry of Christmas baking, (this year many cookies will feature homemade jam.) and I'm helping my son work on something special for his gifs. So far the results are good. It all takes a lot of time but, it's time well spent. Also, a completely different experience than heading off to a crowded mall ram packed with stressed out shoppers and running up your credit cards. I'm not saying that homemade gifts don't cost money (oh goodness they do!) but when you're buying the fruit in the summer, the jars in the fall, the fabric for wrapping when ever you happen to come across some at a good price, it stings a hell of a lot less. This year I am going to demand people return jars and tins to me so that I can store them and use them next year. (And by demand I mean "Please don't throw that away when it's empty, if you don't have a use for it please give it back so that I can use it again next year.")
Christmas is also much better when you don't try and fit it all into one day. I plan numerous Christmas visits/ parties/ dinners/ coffeies. Little celebrations with less people and lots of joy. That and I make an active concious effort to be nicer, kinder, and more help to just about everyone. (It's much easier to do that when you don't have to brave the malls.)
After a few years of testing it out I've found the true Christmas spirit and it is this; The less I buy gifts, the more I enjoy Christmas. The more time I take to make special personal gifts for people the more I enjoy giving them. (The secrect ingrediant is L-O-V-E. and if you say it's bad for the econmy I am very likely to give you two tight slaps.) I heard it all my life and I've said it before without really know what it means; the best give you can give is your time. Anyone can go to a mall with some cash (or credit) and buy you something, but who's going to be thinking of you in the summer while picking the fruit to use in the jam they make you for Christmas? That's not just love that's devotion. Personally I think Jesus would apporve, and after all it is his party.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The spirit of Halloween

As a child I adored Halloween. There's something really great about the combination of dressing up and bags of free candy. I extended my trick or treating days well into my teens, (which I could easily get away with being so short ;) and still enjoy dressing up to take my little son around to do his trick or treating. It's hard not to notice that participation in this "holiday" is waning. When I was a child it was an exception that a house would NOT be handing out candy. Now the houses that giving out candy are few and far between. I find this so sad for a number of reasons. Every year there seem to be new candy scares and voices are raised in opposition to "devil worship". People complain of teenagers who are "too old" trick or treating at their house.
This is something I find more than a little hard to comprehend. Halloween is the only "holiday" that encourages us to go out into the community and celebrate with strangers. For one night only we expect strangers to knock on our doors asking for gifts of sweets. The streets are filled with the laughter of children and the happy conversation of parents discussing the cuteness of costumes and the best decorations. It's a fun joyful experience that children give up far to easily and far to early in my opinion. I have no problem what so ever with older teenagers coming to my door (although I do prefer it if they are in costume.) I find the majority of them to be friendly polite and festive. True, it can be a little frightening when a "child" taller than I am arrives at my door wearing a hockey mask or soaked with "blood" but do I think they would try to knock me down and rob my house? Not for one second. Am I too trusting and naive? Or am I just filled with the Halloween spirit? I would hate to see this annual tradition peter out due to lack of interest or fear.