|published in the South Shore Breaker - November 23, 2016
The holiday season can be tough, and living in the real world is seldom like the happily ever after scenes we see in movies. You know the types of things I’m talking about. Houses decorated in every room. Everyone in the family smiling and happy. Giving and receiving the perfect gifts. Gourmet meals. Outside decorations gone wild a la Chevy Chase and the Christmas Vacation. Fa-la-la-la-la and Pa rum pum pum pum.
I am no Scrooge, but the thought of Christmas can be fairly stressful. Our society has changed the whole meaning of the season from a celebration of faith to one of commercialized excess. I was raised on weekly Sunday school, although I am not now a follower of organized religion. However, that doesn’t stop me from lamenting the loss of the spirit of the season and cringing at the unrelenting promotional grabs in every store you enter and every paper you read at this time of year.
Gearing up for the season can actually grind a person down.
So, how to overcome this? I try to tackle it by focusing on the things I like to do, not the things that I think people expect me to do. For instance, I’m not actually that interested in baking and feel no need to bake dozens and dozens of cookies and squares. I’d be the one doing most of the eating anyway, and my waistline thanks me for not spending hours and hours in the kitchen.
However, in this day of electronic messages and declining card sales, I actually enjoy creating a Christmas card (no Happy Holidays for me) and addressing all the envelopes. Who doesn’t like receiving something in the mail other than a bill? It’s my way of sending a bit of cheer to family and friends.
I have never been a shopper and avoid the malls even at the less busy times of the year. So, for the very few presents that we actually buy, I head to the craft shows and local shops. Last year, Ontario stockings were filled with Nova Scotia jams, jellies, and chutneys. Santa even delivered a braid of homegrown organic garlic.
Just about everyone takes photos these days, even if it’s just with their phone. What’s more personal than a gift that you have created yourself? Even non crafty people can create things using their photographs. Coffee mugs, puzzles, playing cards, calendars. You name it, you can put a photograph on just about anything these days. Some of my photographer friends create and give books of their favourite images from the year. Coupled with stories about why the photographs are important to them, the books make a very personal gift. Another friend creates day planners and includes his photographs. Yes, there are still other people around like me who use paper based daytimers. For many years, I created an annual book for our granddaughter including pictures from all the things we did together through the year. I’m not sure how thrilled she was to receive a non toy gift at the time, but I know in years to come the photo books will be treasures for her to look back on.
We are one of the fortunate families that doesn’t need any more stuff. We would rather have a nice meal together with our family rather than have our kids buy us things. But it’s hard to convince everyone else in the family that we really don’t want to exchange gifts. I mean, it sounds so very un-merry and ungrateful to say that. Many people of the same age, or folks who have jumped on the downsizing bandwagon, might agree that gifts are overrated.
Two years ago, my husband and I decided to do something non commercial to celebrate the season and we created our "Twelve Beaches of Christmas". In the weeks leading up to Christmas, we toured twelve beaches on the South Shore and took family photos with our dogs and short little videos of the beaches to share with our online friends. We visited The Hawk on Cape Sable Island, Cherry Hill Beach, Rissers, Crescent, and 8 more. We had some very chilly walks, but we dressed warm and almost always had the whole beach to ourselves. Unlike the "Twelve Days of Christmas" song, I didn’t receive gold rings or a partridge in a pear tree, but I will have very special memories to keep instead.