Here's my question: people complain about commercialized Christmas and how crazy Christmas shopping is, but do they Step Away from the Cash Register? Over the years, I have learned that family members and friends care more about expressions of love and gifts of time than anything you could possibly buy for them in a store. If you ask my five siblings about their favorite Christmas in our family, every one of them describes the year we went to a cabin in the woods, spent Christmas day skiing, and then for presents, each person received a little box of hand-written notes of love from each member of the family. These notes were written that day, at the prompting of my mom, who told us to write a note to each person telling them what you love about them. I still have mine. They are one of my most precious possessions. I was 18 years old when I received this profound gift. It has colored every Christmas since then a beautiful blue, both deep and bright.
So... this is my encouragement to you to Occupy Christmas, or whatever holiday you are celebrating. In fact, it is my hope that you will Occupy Your Family, Occupy Your Life. Because to me, the whole Occupy movement is about waking up and being present and aware of what is going on around you. And the most important thing to wake up to is how blessed you are to have the ones you love in your life. TELL THEM. If you want to buy gifts, go ahead. Buy local. Buy small. Buy sustainable. It's okay to buy gifts. But don't assume the gifts are doing the important job of letting peole know just how deep and wide your love is.
Here's my plan for Occupying My Christmas.
Step 1. Watch The Story of Stuff. This is becoming a holiday tradition, just like watching Elf. In fact, we are going to watch all the videos on this site, like a video advent calendar.
Step 2. Buy a cow or goat or sheep or goats or chickens for a family in need through Heifer International and send a witty card to my family members to show them the gift we bought for the whole family. (Mom, Dad, five sibs, a whole lot of nieces and nephews plus Laird's sibs and their loves). We'll also post a picture of the animal on the wall or make a decoration for the tree at our house so my kids see this way of giving. (Did you ever think about all the things your parents did that you had no clue about? I'm learning to talk more about the things we do, so my kids we truly be aware of them.)
Step 3. Donate a chunk of money to the humanitarian efforts of the agency that helped bring us our children from Ethiopia and make a small donation to their Holiday Project that provides Christmas feasts to the orphanages with which they work. We will also make a decoration for the tree that represents this gift.
Step 4. As I declutter this month, I will wrap mathoms for anyone I can think of. I have lots of things I am ready to part with, but not ready to just hand to Goodwill. Giving mathoms helps motivate me to clear out Stuff by adding love to the letting go.
Step 5. Get copies of well-loved pictures and frame them or make little sock monkeys (from scraps... time to declutter the craft corner!) for the people I will be with on Christmas morning. Wrap in used wrapping paper or scraps of fabric. Add a thoughtful love note - the most important part of the gift. My friend has been making Sock Monkeys and I have invited her and some other friends to come make sock monekys on a Saturday. Each one has a name and unique personality. Just having this connection and creative time with her will be a gift to me and the kids, and it will help the kids know that creating things to give is more fun than buying things. The thing we make is not as important as the joy of making things with each other.
Step 7. Make Cinnamon Swirl Oat Bread, aka NumNum Bread (named by Ben when he was two) which will magically erase any and all feelings of "not getting enough" on Christmas Day.
Step 8. Require (yes, force) all to get out to play or stay in a play games. Face-to-face, person-to-person, being alive, being together... this is what Holy Days are about.
By the way, we also have a Solstice Sing every year... we celebrate the Winter Solstice with singing and candles and yummy sun-ful foods and a fire in the fireplace. It is sweet to have a holiday for which there is no expectation of gifts. Throughout December, we also read stories and talk about all the other winter holidays people celebrate on this earth.
Have a glorious holiday season full of light and love!