Tuesday, December 12, 2006

hark! the handmade holidays rule!

Still crafting behind the scenes so I have no pictures to show, just a true confession: I am a recovering Scrooge. I have disliked Christmas and, especially, Christmas presents, since I was a teenager. Thanksgiving has long been my favorite holiday because it is all about feast and family and being thankful for what you have rather than greedy for what you don't. Then comes Christmas, which of course is all about feast and the family too. But for years, while I scoured the stores to fulfill my reluctant obligation to purchase the perfect gift for every family member and friend, suffering piped-in Christmas Muzak and fake-o decorations in the process, I would think, Spirit of Christmas who?

I am not even religious, so I did not object to the commercialization of Christmas on the traditional grounds. Still, I did and do in some sense feel that some things are sacred. Every once in a while I would catch a glimmer of Christmas gift-giving as an expression of love and generosity, freely given, through the enormous commercial that is the Christmas season and feel... sad. Trapped and sad.

I married into a family that embraces Christmas with a fearsome enthusiasm. In a way that was infectious, but it also made it impossible to lie low. I had to come to terms with the fact that I was never going to realize my true Christmas dream of spending the day blissfully alone, watching movies, drinking champagne and eating dark chocolate. When, a couple years ago, the whole family agreed to tame the wretched excess, that helped. So did J's and my decision, after we had Iris, to spend Christmas at home instead of on the visiting circuit so that we could begin to establish our own family traditions.

But the real turning point for me was deciding that one of those traditions was going to be opting out of a commercial Christmas. Last year, for the first time, I handmade almost every gift I gave, and I finally felt an inkling of Christmas spirit – the joy of giving, if you'll pardon the phrase. I actually felt like I was giving something of myself rather than something of my money, and it felt good! The time and effort I spent on my handmade holiday were probably about the same but much more enjoyable, the money I spent considerably less, and I figure my odds of pleasing the gift recipients are at least as good as with the stuff I used to buy.

I suppose someday Iris will rebel and want authentic storebought whatnot so as not to be outcast among her friends whose families participate more or less gladly in the Christmas spending frenzy. She will certainly have plenty of family of her own to indulge her, and so be it. She will have to make her own peace with the wretched excess of not only Christmas commercialism, but our whole crass American culture year-round. I certainly do not judge anyone else for indulging in Christmas shopping. There are many ways for the thought to count, and my family, especially, does have a knack for giving the most thoughtful gifts – they are so much better at that than I ever was. But I do hope that in our little household, we can continue the tradition of making things for each other, showing Iris that is one way to give.

So, not that anyone asked, that's what handmade holidays mean to me. Craft on! Signed, Scrooge No More.


Anonymous kirsten said...

nice post, angelique!
the commercialism of the holidays is sickening - you do have to find the middle-ground, i think. and i agree that handmade stuff really helps.
also staying home to make your own traditions - we do that, too. i feel sorry for all the families who have to make the circuit on Christmas day! Merry Christmas!

8:51 AM  
Anonymous erin said...

great post, angelique! i agree - i have made more gifts this year than in the past and i am enjoying the whole season so much more!

9:12 AM  
Blogger angelique said...

Thank you and merry Christmas to you, too!

10:14 PM  

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