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The Week After

My wife and I gave up celebrating Christmas a number of years ago. After years of working in the tourism industry, the holiday became something we dreaded, not looked forward to. One of the hardest things new staff in this area have to get used to is that you do not get Christmas off to go home and visit your family. This valley is run on tourism, so all of the hotel rooms are full of people coming to the mountains with their families. Those hotels, restaurants, and ski hills need to be staffed. Unfortunately, few of these families seem to be having a stress-free vacation and that usually lands on the staff as well.

While neither of us work in that sort of job anymore, we never reignited the ‘Christmas spirit’. Our home looks the same on Christmas Day as it does in the middle of July. We don’t decorate, exchange gifts, or do anything remotely Christmas related, aside from attend a couple of parties. And really, it’s just because we enjoy seeing friends, although this year, neither of us were much in the mood for that, either.

A few years ago, we convinced our parents not to give us any presents, so there is no swapping of the gift cards or cash, or blowing our budget on things none of us need. For a couple of years there, it was almost like putting in an order…tell me what you want, and I’ll go buy it. We don’t have children, so Santa doesn’t need to come to visit, anymore.

This year, we did go home to Red Deer for the weekend, and it was nice and quiet. Friday with my wife’s family, Saturday with my folks, then home Sunday afternoon. A couple of nice dinners, but very quiet and relaxing, and no gifts exchanged. Played a few games, had a few laughs, and enjoyed each others’ company.

While I wouldn’t try to convince anyone else to give up Christmas, especially if they have children, it is definitely time for a lot of people to put on the brakes. Whether it’s for the obvious religious reasons or simply for spending time with family, each person should figure out what exactly it is that they’re celebrating.

I’ve watched in disbelief these past couple of weeks as every single day, there was at least one segment on the news about our current debt crisis, how people are living beyond their means with massive credit card and household debt, and advice from experts on how to curb holiday spending. All the while, many retailers are reporting record sales at the malls and online. The same will happen this week, no doubt, as big ticket items (and everything else) are on sale. Remember when Boxing Day was just a day? Now it’s a week. Judging from the footage we see on the news each year, people aren’t thinking about their fellow man when they’re pushing and shoving and rushing those doors to get 20% off a 3D TV.

Sure, you can call me Scrooge or Grinch, and you’d be accurate. While many people talk a good game about the holiday spirit and the true meaning of Christmas, there seems to be less and less evidence of it with each passing year. We keep buying more and more stuff trying to make ourselves happy, and when it doesn’t work, we just buy even more stuff. It’s the same reason a cocaine addict needs to keep taking more and more of the drug and never manages to get back to the initial high.

It’s as if everyone has gone mad and forgotten the lessons we were supposed to have learned the past couple of years from a near-depression economy. But it’s Christmas, and nobody wants to hear it, even though the ‘Ghost of Christmas Past’ credit card bills will show up soon enough.

I sincerely hope everyone had a good Christmas, and that it was free from pain or tragedy. But now that it’s over, ask yourself what you didn’t like about it, remind yourself throughout the year that YOU control your holiday, not the media, and not Big Box retailers. If you want to cut back next year, tell your family about it in July, before anybody has bought anything. Warn them that you won’t be buying as many gifts and ask them to do the same. And if you’re met with anger over the mere suggestion of it, that should be your first clue that something is seriously wrong.

If you really believe in the ‘true’ meaning of Christmas, whatever that may mean to you, put your money where your mouth is.

1 thought on “The Week After

  1. A very interesting blog Patrick. I don’t celebrate Christmas either, but for religious reasons. It’s been that way since I was a child and I’ve never felt deprived of anything, as my parents bought me gifts the whole year round.

    Now that I’m an adult I really notice the “StResS” that people feel this time of year. I don’t have to deal with that, and I’m really, really glad! I do find it ironic that this is supposed to be a happy time of year, but when you go to town for groceries/supplies it seems anything but!

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