Christmas Crimes (and other things Santa doesn’t want you to know)

by andrewodom on December 10, 2010 · 14 comments


Each year we are asked like clockwork by friends, family members, radio DJs, celebrities, our work, our schools, etc, the preposterous question, “What does Christmas mean to you?” We answer with Hallmark responses echoing a desire for peace, goodwill, and love to our fellow man. We blend in a bit of the jolly ‘ol guy in the red suit, a baby boy born amidst pig feed and cow dung, a few paintings of rosy-cheeked carolers, and we conjure up an answer that has little to do with how we actually celebrate Christmas in our developed nation.

Is this post snarky and presumptuous? Yes. Does it stink of holier than thou pontifications? Perhaps. But is it true? Yes, of both you and I.

For the most part we have turned Christmas and the surrounding holidays into a consumer free-for-all in which we write excessive lists of “What the heck is that?” and “Where am I supposed to find that?” We then rally our liquid assets, remaining unsecured credit, and the ghosts of Christmas lay-away, in order to dive deep into the belly of the beast and submit ourselves to what becomes increasingly more insane and violent each year.

Let’s all pause for a moment though and remind ourselves of how countless stores look just hours after violently stuffing ourselves with Turkey and Cranberry Sauce on Thanksgiving Day.

My heart literally hurts when I watch that video. Like Braveheart and his men the crowd lets out a celebratory roar almost as soon as the clip begins. They force the metal gate to break free from their hinges and they storm the merchandise tables as a starving crowd of enslaved people would a relief fund food drop. Is this really what we have become?

I am immediately reminded of the horrible death in 2008 of the Wal-Mart employee. Stampeded by other human beings. And over what? A game system? A much-hyped doll?

Granted I am illustrating the extreme cases. Not all suburban box stores fall victim to hoards of flash mobs and otherwise obsessed shoppers. On a smaller scale though, is this not the madness that envelopes us all from the end of November until the final days of Advent? Since the Mad Men days of the late ’50s to the baby boomers of the ’90s, consumerism has been elevated to an art form. And with it, Christmas. Those same days mentioned above with the sounds of choirs and church bells and peace on Earth have now become an opus of well-calculated, perfectly executed, strategically planned, income-generating composition!

So how do we save Christmas? Well, I have no idea. More church isn’t the answer. Walking the streets with empty bowls begging for rice isn’t the answer. Not even wearing tattered clothing and giving our worldly possessions to 3rd world nations is the answer. I have no 5 Tips to Save the Holidays. I am not self-help guru. And if you are still reading this post I am little more than your friend who you want to hear from or find out where my mind is this time of year.

How to save Christmas is all about you! It involves really analyzing where your heart is, where your mind is, and where you want them to be come December 26. It is also about being real in regards to your financial position and where you would like to come out the day after the birthday.

Crystal and I made 70% of our gifts this year. It was a pleasure for us and we hope will be a pleasure for the recipients. We are no Martha Stewarts. We are not even that crafty. But we have a desire and we practice until we come up with something halfway presentable. The other 20% were purchased cash-on-the-barrel. As for each other? Is that the remaining 10%? No. In fact, Crystal will not be getting a diamond tennis bracelet and I will not spend Dec. 25th scrolling around on my new iPad. In fact, we aren’t buying each other gifts. We are instead investing in each other and our life together by spending the day together and planning our future in Tiny House. Any money we may have spent will go towards further reducing our debt. The other 10% are gifts for a few Aunts and Uncles and they are donations made in honor of. I love these kind of gifts because they fill no consumer need but still manage to bring gift giver and gift receiver closer together.

Now mind you. Our answer may not work for you. It may even sound stupid. In fact, you may just want to go to Wal-Mart, buy a bunch of gifts, wrap them, and absolve yourself later. Fine by me! There shouldn’t be a need for it though as Christmas should NOT be about guilt or blame. If you choose to give gifts, then do it. But do it from your heart. Buy within your means. Don’t allow yourself to become maniacal. Crystal and I are not immune to this issue. We have been into Target this month and wanted to purchase a few decorations or a Gingerbread House Kit or a toy for a niece or nephew. But we picked it up, walked around the store with it, talked about the purchase, and ultimately realized it just wasn’t “right.”

So what do you think? Have I hit the nail on the head? Am I bonkers myself? Am I being unfair? Can we save Christmas? Let me hear from you. And as always, if you like this post feel free to share it on Facebook or put the link out on Twitter. The r(E)volution is open to everyone!

  • http://www.scissorsanddrumsticks.com Scissors & Drumsticks

    Dude, you couldn’t be any closer to the truth than this. Coporate greed has turned its consumers into cash cow robots willing to charge at the purchase with unrelentless vigor only to really pay for it in the years to come in the name of ridiculous interest rates.

    Scissors and I haven’t haven’t purchased each other gifts since our first child was born. We get a bigger kick out of watching the young’ns get all crazy over things they have been wanting forever. I think you remember that feeling as a kid. Although we don’t shower our kids with gifts, we do get them a couple things we KNOW they will use throughout the year. Scissors and I save ca$h for this time of year. No charge/credit purchases….period. The folks that use credit for the doorbuster priced items will always pay more in the long-run in lieu of interest rates than the folks who pay cash at full price.There are NO DEALS unless you pay cash which hardly ever happens.

  • Dawn Kelly

    It’s a homemade Christmas for those on my list this year! M and I will not be exchanging gifts either. Nor do we ‘buy’ into Valentine’s Day, anniversaries or birthdays. There are 365 days to make sure the important people in your life know that you care and are there. And never is that fact made known by something bought.

  • Sduncan

    I think you do bring up some very disappointing aspects of Christmas – but perhaps I’m still a romantic at heart — I like giving gifts and enjoy receiving them. However, I agree that we all could scale back a little and think that has to start at home as well. As a mom of two children, I can say that neither of my children have ever “had” to have the latest and greatest toy, electronic etc. Grant it …my 11 year old’s list was quite elaborate and included not only an Ipad which she will not be getting but also a “genie” which I’d love to have one as well. And while she makes these elaborate lists, she does not expect to get all of the items, thank goodness.

    I think it’s about balance in a world that’s often unbalanced …it’s about trying to remember what the season is about and yet not get too caught up in the horrible scenes as that YouTube video and other greed that goes along with it. I love homemade gifts and think that is a great idea too. It has gotten out of control but I hope with more people like you and others we can continue to bring out the good cheer in the holiday season rather than the “greedy” cheer … Merry Christmas

    • anotherkindofdrew

      You bring up a good point. (Believe it or not, I am still a hopeless romantic and enjoy the nostalgic thoughts of Christmas). While we don’t have to give up the notion of gifts altogether we could all scale back some. And that is what I am trying to drive home. We as a society have become maniacal about gifts. We are willing to turn our worlds and those around us upside down to get a gift for someone. It is incredible. Your 11-year old is who I still am; the person who makes an elaborate list just because it is fun and it allows your imagination to run wild. That is so healthy and I know you must get tickled seeing that list Sduncan.

      I hope I can help bring about a change in the spirit of it all myself. In fact, that is what I want for Christmas…people to pause a little more than a second and really just revel in a beautiful time of year! Merry Christmas to you as well.

  • Anonymous

    Homemade gifts are fantastic, and very meaningful. We’ve decided (since we are Livin’ La Vida Broke-a) to make a video using still frame photos of our boys, set to Christmas music as our gift this year.
    We’ve never been really big “gift givers” even to each other. Every year since Matt and I started our relationship, I give him an ornament for the tree. It’s little and inexpensive, but we joke about growing old together and what our tree will look like in 50 years! I believe that the meaning of Christmas is time. Time together with family. Now, as the boys get older, I’m sure we’ll spring for Legos or whatever they’re interested in at that time!

    • anotherkindofdrew

      TIME! You are right. Time with each other. Time FOR each other. I think y’all totally have the right idea.

  • Anonymous

    One more thought – when I was in college I took a ceramics class. Loved it! Everyone got ashtrays and odd shaped bowls that year for Christmas! Turns out, I’m not very good at molding clay!

  • Shannonroselive

    We gave up that hunt years ago. The trouble is, I now have a 7 yr old who is REALLY hoping he made the “nice” list and will be seeing surprises under the tree! The happy side is, every time we park our car in any lot, he follows my lead and writes a “love” note to leave on a random car. We also do our Secret Santa surprises closer to the big day. These are home made stockings filled with tiny toys and gift certificates for food which we give to homeless kids. Everything we give now is either recycled and/or home made.
    All this consumerism is such nonsense! I can’t stand to watch it going on. There are people who actually NEED things in our world and we are out spending every nickel, even using credit, to buy crap we don’t need. A lot of us can’t afford our mortgages, bills, etc but feel compelled to buy a $500 game system. WTF????

    • anotherkindofdrew

      WTF? indeed!!!!! I love your idea of the home made stockings. That is really beautiful and such a great lesson for your kids.

  • Christopher

    Good words Drew… As a follower of Jesus, my cultural aim (though often difficult in our society) is to create more than I consume. My aspirations are definitely the toughest to carry out this time of year :/

    It also made me wonder how Ayla & I will “do” Christmas once we have children… I want them to know Christmas as warm, joyful & exciting, but I don’t want those emotions to only be evoked from the idea of gaining useless material items that will be tired and obsolete the next year.

    You’re right. We’ve really got ourselves into this situation and there’s no easy answer. It comes down to the heart, but change also requires action from those convictions. What should those actions look like? Hmmm…

    • anotherkindofdrew

      I think the actions look like whatever works for our family. What works for Crystal and I and what we believe in will NEVER be 100% consistent with what you and Ayla believe in. But together all of our efforts can transform the mentality of the next generation.

      Thank you for reading and commenting, my old friend.

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