I had every intention of a series of blog posts all about a Simple, or Slow Christmas, with ideas for homemade gifts, and stockings, and even homemade trees.
But then it occurred to me, that making your own gifts, and stockings, and trees, isn’t in any way Simple, or Slow, and is in fact, hard bloody work, and far more stressful than sitting at home one evening on the laptop and hitting Amazon.
The more I started to think about Christmas, to really give some proper thought to it, to how I feel about it, and what it means to me, the more conflicted I started to feel.
I like Christmas. Or at least I think I do.
Especially with the kids at 4 and 7, the perfect ages for Christmas.
I love seeing Christmas through their eyes-the excitement, the sheer magic of it all.
I love the build up, the festive tunes, the Christmas cake making, and all of that. In fact, I love the build up possibly more than the big day itself (which always feels to me to be something of an anti-climax).
But I also struggle with Christmas. In much the same way that I struggle with birthdays.
Actually, that’s not true. It’s not Christmas I struggle with. It’s the Stuff that comes with it.
And this is where the conflict lies.
This will be the third Christmas without my mum, and it’s always a poignant time of year for those who are missing loved ones.
I don’t think my mum especially loved (or even liked Christmas), but she used to go all out for presents. All out. Huge. Massive. Soooo many presents.
When we were kids, my memories are of big bulging stockings, and a tree stacked up with presents around the base.
I’m not sure if she saw it as an expression of love (another one of those conversations we never got round to having), or quite why she used to go so bonkers, but she did.
So somewhere deep in my psyche, Christmas is all about presents.
And that really jars with the values that I have developed ever since we started our Make Do and Mend Year.
Prompted by a course I was on last week, where we had a workshop all about our values, and living authentically, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to what my values are, and to whether my actions, and how I live my life, matches up to these values.
And I’ve realised that the bits of my life that make me feel uncomfortable, are the bits where my values, and my actions, don’t add up.
Christmas (and in fact, gift giving generally) is one of those areas.
My values, my actions, my perception of societal expectations, and my perception of other people’s expectations, are all at odds with each other. And it leaves me feeling really scrunched up inside.
I’ve been giving this a LOT of thought (Over thinker? Me…?!) to my values over the last few days. To the things that make me tick, make me angry, the things I feel really strongly about.
I’ve managed to narrow it down to five:
:: making a difference
:: taking responsibility for my actions and the impact that they have
:: happiness. Not the momentary fleeting ‘exterior’ happiness, that comes with some good news, or a new purchase. But the real ‘interior’ happiness. Being ‘ok’ with myself. Knowing that feelings and emotions will come and go, but at the core of everything is an inner peace and contentment, and happiness. I’m working on this one.
:: living intentionally (I need do a LOT of work on this one!)
:: treading lightly-thrift, re-use, make do and mend etc etc.
They really don’t sit well with my inner child’s expectations of Christmas as a towering mountain of gaudily wrapped gifts.
And they don’t sit well with my assumptions that:
– everyone else wants lots of gifts too
– people will expect you to have spent the same amount (ish) of money on their gifts, as they have spent on yours
– any attempt to gift small tokens of handmade gifts, will be viewed as mean, or somehow ‘unloving’
I have this utopian ideal of spending a quiet afternoon or two, with the radio on, pottering round the kitchen, whipping up batches of fudge, and bath bombs, and gaily ticking names off my gift list.
But what really happens is that I have all these plans, and great ideas, and then I never start early enough, and my attempts at handmade never really match up to the Pinterest ideals I am aiming for. They often turn out a bit, well, crap, if I’m being brutally honest.
I once made my brother a cricket ball hat, and still wince now as I imagine his reaction on opening it.
I made the boys dino hats one year, and they were too small, even after about three attempts, and never got worn.
And I made my sister in law a hat/mitten/scarf combo from an old jumper, that I am fairly certain has never seen the light of day.
My intentions are good, but my making skills (and my time management) always seem to let me down.
So I don’t know.
I want to have a Simple Christmas. A Slow Christmas.
A Christmas where I make simple, thoughtful presents, and gift them with no guilt or worry, and am able to think that they will be received in the manner they were gifted. That people will be touched at the time and effort that went into them. A Christmas where the boys are delighted at a couple of chocolate coins and a satsuma in their stockings (going too far..?).
A Christmas where the focus is on the things we do together, rather than the stuff we get.
But there is also a part of me that wants the kids to have that magic of overflowing stockings appearing at their bedsides, and the pile of presents under the tree. That expression of love.
There is part of me that knows that my attempts at homemade gifts are sometimes rubbish, despite my best efforts, and that sometimes, the thought really isn’t enough.
So there’s my conundrum, laid our bare for all to see.
I wanted to be this font of wisdom this Christmas here on the blog. Providing inspirational posts about how to have this amazing Simple Christmas, that somehow managed to neatly side step consumerism, and create some kind of wonderful rose-tinted 1950’s Christmas idyll, with no stress, and perfectly crafted everything. Where the family all happily donate to charity, and we sit down all together and eat a lovely meal, and spend the afternoon playing charades by the fire…
Instead, there is angst.
But I figured that I can’t be the only one feeling like this. Can I?
And I guess I’m kind of hoping that some of you out there will have THE answer.
Or if not THE answer, then maybe some answers. Or some suggestions of how you cope with Christmas, and the clash of your values, with your perhaps deeply rooted expectations?