Monday, December 19, 2011

Not In The Holiday Spirit (Yet)

This past weekend, on Saturday night, my wife and I got a babysitter to watch our two boys. Instead of a romantic night out (mistake #1), we took a practical route and used the night to catch up on Christmas shopping. We started with a quick meal at Generic Chain Restaurant (mistake #2), because of its proximity to stores we wanted to patronize. The food was actually decent, but the atmosphere was bland. When a group of workers gathered together to sing happy birthday to a customer (Holy restaurant cliche, Batman), I was ready to leave. We stopped at Lame Craft Store to get a few ornaments and other trinkets, then headed to Pretend Your House Is Like The Ones On HGTV Store to get a few gifts, then went to the mall to Cute And Cheap Clothes For Kids Store to pick up a few things, and ended at Very Expensive Toy Store to buy $40 Legos for our 4-year-old. My wife and I agreed that neither of us were properly in the holiday spirit. We couldn't pinpoint why. Job stress? Life stress? General holiday stress? I think maybe it has something to do with Consumption Pressure (not sure why I capitalized Consumption and Pressure, but hey, it's a blog). I made an obvious observation that you never feel like you're done shopping. It always feels like you can buy one more thing. And sometimes you have a sense that what you bought just isn't good enough. And why the hell do we spend so much time buying things that people don't need? Granted, I say this from a middle-class perspective. Our family and friends don't need anything. I know that plenty of people do need lots of things. I also know there are good gifts for people who fortunately don't need things. A nice bottle of wine from France makes a good gift for my brother, and a gift certificate to my mother's favorite salon makes a nice gift for her. But the running around to get STUFF doesn't feel satisfying. Maybe I'm just a grinch.

Sunday felt a little different. We took the kids to a tree farm and picked out a nice little Christmas tree. That baby cost $48, then we spent a few more bucks at the gift shop, then a few more dollars on hot dogs and fresh cut french fries (yum). Later on, when the tree was decorated, I felt a little bit of the holiday spirit.

Then, today, I found a nice surprise in my office mailbox: two candy canes. How cute is this, one was a pink candy cane with Dora the Explorer all over it, the other one green with SpongeBob Squarepants all over it. And no card or note. Just somebody who decided to leave two candy canes in my mailbox. That made me happy. I thought to myself: "This makes more sense to me. Leaving fun little items for people without identifying yourself as the gift giver. This is good. Just thinking of someone, recognizing someone in some small way, and not looking for credit. That seems like the holiday spirit."

Well, hopefully I'll lighten up by Christmas. Having kids is supposed to automatically make you enjoy Christmas. And I am excited for my kids. But consumption has a funny way of making you feel empty inside. Anonymous gifts, however, might generate joy and spark some spirit. In any case, happy holidays. Did I really end with a cliche?

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