All I Want for Christmas is Some Thoughtfulness
My famiy gave up celebrating Xmas in Xmas Day several years ago. There were pragmatic reasons. Both my kids have partners from other countries, and they do like to travel when they get the opportunity. With limited holiday time available to them, optimising their time over the vacation period just makes sense.
Also, none of us are religious. If Xmas, or Christmas, is supposed to be a time to celebrate the birth of a small refugee 2013 years ago, we’d rather the current refugees were welcomed with kindness rather than the brutality of the current government regime.
The third reason we decided to change our xmas is we all find ourselves repulsed rather than excited by the ‘binge shopping’ that seems to occur around this time. We’d often prefer to donate to a charity rather than buy ‘stuff’ for the sake of it. It’s easier for me to make soy candles for my friends than spend a fortune buying them. As television news outlets rejoice in the knowledge that ‘the Chadstone shopping centre was full at 2am’ and the Gerry Harveys of the world rub their hands together in blissful glee, we relax, kick back and watch the madness. We’ve done our shopping, eaten our food, celebrated a fabulous family weekend and held each other close – particularly the toddlers in the family who are learning to swim.
We’ve also developed our own priorities, rather than having them dictated by marketers and marketeers. We decided that it was far more important for us to spend time together as a family than anything else. As our family includes members who are Japanese and Dutch as well as Australian, including their traditions is crucial – which means our meals are exotic and wonderful.
Apparently a protocol has also been developed around re-gifting. The rules are far too complex, so we’ve developed our own. The delightful Bondi Vet explained on The Project the other night that his family has a one minute rule. During that minute you can explain, without fear or favour, why you dislike the gift you’ve been given, at least I think that’s how it worked. He added that ‘Mum ends up in tears’. Not my idea of a happy christmas.
At our place, re-gifting is perfectly fine. If you get something you can’t use – why not pass it on to another who may be able to. Buying gifts from op shops and markets is also not only acceptable but encouraged. One member of my family loves shopping – and I mean LOVES shopping. In her youth she carried designer handbags, wore designer clothes and jewellery, and had a brand new car every two years without fail. Her shopaholism has been gently guided into opshopaholism by her husband, my son, who has explained that staying at home to raise two beautiful babies means one wage to support them all, and that cannot support shopping in her old style. She made the transition seamlessly and her skills as an op shopper are much in demand among family and friends. She still dresses them all in designer threads and carries designer bags, but they’ve all been pre-loved and discarded by those seeking the next new shiny object.
My toddler grandbabies are just as happy playing in a magnificent dolls house I paid $10 for at a garage sale than in a much smaller and more fragile plastic monstrosity which would have cost ten times as much at a department store. My Mum is delighted to be passing on some of the treasures she has gathered over the years and never used, including her wedding presents of sixty years ago. Her pleasure is in watching our eyes light up at her generosity, and seeing her gifts actually being used, when she could not bring herself to do so.
For me the best gift of all, apart from my second hand iPad and annual calendar of my beautiful grandbabies, is watching those grandbabies interact with others.
They’re learning that the most important thing for them to do is take care of each other, so they hold hands wherever they go. They’re also learning to say please and thank you – in multiple languages. They fetch walking sticks for GrandNan, hold doors open for others and ask ‘what’s your name’ when they start to play with someone new. To see a three year old say to a two year old ‘it’s your turn to hold teddy now’ reminds me that in a world where consideration and turn-taking are skills that have been lost, they are still possible.
As I braved the shopping centre carpark this morning for some last minute food supplies, and watched people fight over parking spaces and places in lines, and saw an elderly woman on a walking stick be knocked over by thoughtless teenagers crashing into her while on their mobile phones, I thought again how much some adults in our world could learn from little ones.
All I want for xmas now, and into the future, is a tad of thoughtfulness, a smidgeon of consideration and a drop of care for others.