I have more than three thousand pieces of music in my iTunes file. I have public radio’s classical music station programmed into my receiver. There is a large box of vinyl waiting to be converted to digital format so I can listen to the pieces on my modern electronic devices. The music I listen to covers almost all types. A friend who called frequently once told me, “I love calling your place because I never know what kind of music is going to be playing in the background!” I enjoy almost every kind of music.
I am always surprised when someone tells me they are already tired of Christmas music. I have to admit, I too get tired of the piped in, sappy versions of holiday tunes that are everywhere from elevators to shopping malls. “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” is one of the pieces of music I do not enjoy. However, I never get tired of traditional Christmas music and I do not agree with the theological doctrine that carols only be sung on Christmas Eve or after.
I play Christmas carols from the beginning of Advent until the very last day of Christmas and beyond. I have completely instrumental versions of many pieces. Sometimes, the sound of full choirs and solo voices, rock bands and orchestras fill my ears. Christmas music comes in so many styles I can never listen enough. Classical pieces, gospel, spirituals, jazz, rock, contemporary Christian, folk music from around the world–I enjoy it all.
I dislike the constant advertising for holiday shopping almost as much as election ads. My response to both is much the same. I ignore them all.
I refuse to let advertising make me feel like I have to spend more money than I have. On the rare occasions that I watch television, I mute commercials or, much to my family’s annoyance, I mock them. My running commentary on the silliness of advertising has more than once made my children leave the room with their eyes rolling. I refuse to let the world make me feel like my worth is measured by how much money I spend, how nicely my house is decorated, or how many packages are stacked under my Christmas tree.
It is not easy to make the decision to give less stuff and give more of yourself. We have allowed ourselves to be over committed, over scheduled, and over worked. When we are caught on that treadmill, it is easier to buy something, have the store wrap it and maybe even deliver it. The cost of doing that is money, not time, but earning that extra money further taxes our time. It becomes a vicious cycle.
It is hard, especially when dealing with children’s expectations of Christmas, to scale down our giving and buying. When I was a child, I didn’t expect more than one or two gifts under the Christmas tree. Even when my, now grown, children were small, we limited the size and number of things we gave them, but it was far more than what was expected in the 1950’s. Now my grandchildren receive so many gifts from grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, friends, and their parents that they can hardly keep track of all the presents. They will not miss a gift or two in their overwhelming pile.
I will never completely quit giving Christmas gifts. Everyone enjoys getting a present. It makes us happy to know that someone cared enough about us to think about what it is we like, need or value and then spends the time and effort needed to find it for us. It is not the cost of the gift that makes us happy, it is the care that goes into the gift that makes us feel good.
I have quit giving gifts to the “shoulds” on my list. I do not expect gifts from anyone who feels obligated give me one. I have far too much stuff already and I assume most others on my list do too. I give my children and grandchildren small things, things they need, or money for the things they may need in the future. I give baby-sitting coupons and hope they will be used. I have made gifts and have given away meat and produce from our farm.
Retail businesses earn the majority of their sales income during the Christmas shopping season. Those who are earning their income from selling us things between Thanksgiving and January, 2 are not going to quit trying to part us from our money. If we really hate the commercialization of Christmas, it is up to us to change that for ourselves. Only we, ourselves, can change what we buy, how much we give, where we shop, and how we spend our time for the next month.
For the next four weeks of Advent I’m going to go turn up the Christmas carols and I’m going to sing along…”Silent night, holy night. All is calm…”
Copyright © 2012 Janet Jacobson and Sustaining the Northern Plains