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.

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