The Grinch Who Saved Christmas

Hundred Dollar Holiday

Earlier this year, I vowed to take the holidays back from the commercial thugs whose greed nearly destroyed it for me. Inspired by Bill McKibben’s book “Hundred Dollar Holiday”, hubby and I have put our foot down and said “no” to the ridiculous shopping and stress.

I’ve cooked tons of goodies for friends, family, neighbors and colleagues. Christmas cards were homemade this year, and Brad has finished curating the annual “Skeleton at the Feast” compilation. More from him on the playlist later, after the discs have been distributed.

What a difference that decision has made in our lives. A quick jaunt to the store for cardstock and wrapping paper filled me with glee as we bypassed the hundreds of miserable-looking shoppers, revolving around the store as if it were one of Dante’s circles. Instead of freaking out about how much there is to do, I’m happily drinking eggnog right now and humming along to our favorite holiday tunes. (Thank you, Sufjan Stevens, for making Christmas music that doesn’t suck.)

So how are we doing this without being stingy curmudgeons?

  • Instead of expensive gifts, everyone in Brad’s family is bringing four $5 presents, and we’ll play a rousing game of Dirty Santa all night on Christmas. If you haven’t tried it, by all means do. We nearly shivved one another for a set of LED flashlights one year and laughed ourselves silly afterwards when Brad’s father — who oh-so-triumphantly won the gift — promptly opened the package and gave them back to his children. Now that he’s passed away, we think of that night with fondness every time we use his tiny flashlight.
  • My parents are in their eighties and not in the best of health. I’d much rather spend time with them driving around looking at Christmas lights or sharing meals together. So forget shopping — we’re not wasting time with tons of gifts this year. Just going to swap stockings full of treats and enjoy one another’s company as much as possible.
  • For my teenage goddaughter in town, I’ve made a date to take her, her Mom and sister out for Sunday brunch. Methinks a couple hours of girl talk will be just the thing for all of us.
  • Spoiler alert: Don’t read this, Meg! For my wee out-of-town goddaughter, she’s getting a toy I loved as a child and saved all these years. Because I’m a sentimental dork.
  • Rather than exchanging schwag, we’re setting up dinner dates with our tribe of close friends. The memories will last far longer than any gift*.
  • Once again, Brad and I didn’t bother with a tree. Instead, we put up a couple of wreaths, hung stockings, potted a poinsettia, and displayed Christmas cards on the mantle. Only twenty minutes of work, and the house feels cozy and festive.

Gotta say, it’s working. I’m feeling pretty dang Christmasy for the first time in years. If your holidays have gotten out of control, it’s not too late to scale back and enjoy the rest of the season. Here are a few words of advice from Bill McKibben on the subject:

So the reason to change Christmas is not because it damages the earth around us, though surely it does. (Visit a landfill the week after Christmas.) The reason to change Christmas is not because it represents shameful excess in a world of poverty, though perhaps it does. The reason to change Christmas is because it might  help us get at some of the underlying discontent in our lives. Because it might help us see how to change every other day of the year in ways that really would make our whole lives healthier in the long run.

Merry merry, y’all.

*This horrendous thing was regifted over and over again within our tribe for many years. Thank goodness its crank has finally crunked.

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