I had a great Christmas this year, but it left me feeling sad.
Actually, there were plenty of things to be happy about this holiday season.
Family: My family lives on three continents, so I never expect to see them all for any one occasion. This year some of my husband’s family came from Brazil. It was wonderful having them here (and my mother-in-law will stay for 2 months). Add a couple days with my mom, her husband, and my grandma, and we had nice family time this holiday season.
Travel: Five days on the Central California coast was a wonderful way for me to kick off my four weeks off from teaching. I love that area; plus, we had beautiful sunny weather, so there was even more to love this time.
Holiday atmosphere: We got into the spirit this year with a big natural tree, lights, decorations, wintery treats, stories about Santa… Having children makes this a lot more fun since the holiday traditions make them so excited and happy.
One word could describe the last week: excess. And that’s a word that doesn’t usually fit with my perspective.
Too much money spent.
Too many gifts.
Too many feelings of, “Well, I’ll have to cut back on this because I spent too much on/ate too much of/thought too much about that.”
Thinking about the people who don’t have enough food or money for gifts for their children or safety in their daily lives– but, sadly, I didn’t do much about it.
This is all coming from someone who really makes an effort not to go overboard, but I participated in the cycle of excess that really is out of control in the Western world, even if I didn’t indulge as much as the average person.
Why can’t I say, “No gifts this year— please give money to a good charity instead”? Because I have a big family that likes to give presents to my kids, and because, to be honest, I like to get gifts, even if it’s cash to help offset that iPad I got in October.
How about encouraging everyone to scale back and give money to charity in addition to giving gifts? We do that in my family but have gotten a bit off track the last couple years.
How about asking everyone to give a present to a foster child? The Christmas Wish-Lists for foster children are easy to find– they caught my eye one morning at Starbuck’s.
How about asking my son to set aside things to give to the local crisis nursery? We could do this together every year. We have already taught him to only ask for what he needs and to give away things that he doesn’t use, but if we get organized, he and I could prepare a couple of boxes of gently-used items and deliver them together.
So now that the season of excess is over, I realize that for me, avoiding the excess means planning ahead because once the rush of preparing for Christmas is on, it’s easy to let things get out of control. My intention for next year is fewer presents, even slimmer wish lists, less food, more charity, and more space for simple pleasures.
Raam Dev encouraged me once to write a post about raising children and sustainability. I have not done it because we are not a good example, but I realize now that writing about it will encourage me to take more action. Look for that and more related intentions soon.
How did the holiday season leave you feeling? What do you do to keep the excess of the season under control?