It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

December 16th, 2009
Christmas in Birmingham

Christmas in Birmingham

I love the Christmas season. It’s always been one of my favorite times of the year. The festivities and hoopla of the holidays make winter’s arrival a bit easier to bear. By the time the New Year has arrived, I’m ready for a break and I actually look forward to the colder and lower key days that lie ahead. Each year David and I visit family. This year my family is up on the rotation schedule, so by this time next week, we will be in Birmingham, AL. I hope it’s cold but not too cold! J  My parents always have the outside of the house decorated with white lights and of course a beautiful tree inside. The foyer table hosts a beautiful nativity scene to remind us of the true meaning of the season. There will be scrumptious calorie-laden food and plenty of good drinks. Yes, we will all probably gain a pound or two (or ten) but who cares because January is the perfect month to work off the excessive holiday pounds, right?

In addition to all the traditions we participate in each year such as Christmas dinner, church candlelight services and friends dropping by on Christmas day night, we started a new tradition two years ago. Instead of everyone exchanging gifts in the traditional way, we now play the white elephant gift exchange game.  We set a $5.00 limit and we all end up with something silly, useless, and tacky! But oh what fun we have. I love this new tradition for many reasons. The main one being I no longer have to spend the holiday season in the malls spending money I really don’t have on a gift that’s probably not wanted or needed. It also takes a lot of pressure off of me to find that perfect gift.

It seems like so many of us today have a surplus of material goods and one more bath and body set, no matter how well intentioned the giver, is probably not going to mean that much. David and I have never really exchanged Christmas gifts so the holiday shopping gets easier and easier each year. Even my friends and I have changed the way we give gifts to each other. A box of candy or bottle of wine is just as nice. Some friends and I skip the gift giving all together and use the money to go out to a nice restaurant. I now have more money in my budget to give to a favorite charity which to me is an important part of the holiday season-helping those in need.

As the Christmas season becomes less and less material for me each year, I’m realizing I love the holidays more than ever. I feel much less stressed and I enjoy those around me much more. I’m not completely against gift giving, but I do think Americans have gotten out of balance over the years with the incessant gift giving. Yes, I know this is the time of the year the corporations, government, and Wall Street urge us to go into massive debt so we can still be paying off gifts we can’t remember in April, but consumer debt only enslaves us and benefits very few in the long run.

Christmas is a time to celebrate the life of a man whose main message was love and peace. It’s a time to enjoy family and friends, eat yummy food, listen to good music, and hopefully get a little rest and relaxation. It’s not about spending money you don’t have or money you should be saving. All around, I get a sense that many people are downsizing this year. I’m sure a large part of it is the economy, but I also think some of us are becoming more conscious of the things that really matter in life. We’re beginning to get our financial houses in order and simplify our lives so we can enjoy the blessings we already have without always striving for more. I hope the downsizing of the holidays is a permanent trend. We may all have a few less gifts to open each year but we will be richer in so many more ways.

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