Dennis and I haven’t exchanged Christmas presents for many years – not since we bought the land in Bequia, and decided that would be our one big Christmas present to each other. We’re not religious, so we haven’t celebrated Christmas for any other reason than to go with the flow. In these past few years, though, since I’ve been travelling to Bequia from Canada to spend Christmas in more tropical climes, I haven’t even wanted to put up the tree on Christmas Eve, and this year I also tried to convince Dennis that we should break with tradition and eat our Christmas dinner at Tommy’s with Mr. & Mrs. Cantina and a couple of other friends. He looked very sad at this prospect, and said, “But I have a small turkey in the freezer…” So we agreed to just invite Rodger and Patricia over for a swim and a turkey dinner today, and Dennis set up the tree on his own yesterday morning.
Two factors over the years have worked their way into my not wanting to get all excited about Christmas – we don’t have children, and I worked in retail for too many years. I would come home in those days by about 7 p.m. on Christmas Eve absolutely knackered and sick of the whole kit-and-kaboodle. It drained me of any joy I felt about the season. All I wanted to do was sleep, and forget the stressed-out-last-minute-shoppers – and there were many of them – who blamed the store clerks for not being able to find that exact book which we’d sold out of weeks before. Bah humbug! I would say about Christmas, and the cats would have the most fun of all, ripping open carefully wrapped Christmas presents and playing in the tree, batting ornaments across the floor.
And then it became the phoniness of it all that turned me off – Christmas was the excuse for people, who we never heard from during the rest of the year, and quite frankly didn’t care to hear from, to contact us. I stopped sending out Christmas cards (because of the expense, but also with the increasing convenience of the internet), and I saw through a lot of what had been going on throughout my life. I would not be made to feel guilty because I didn’t want to celebrate Christmas the way everyone we knew expected us to celebrate. I hate big parties, prefer to invite only a few very close friends over for small dinners, and quite frankly enjoy my own company, and that of Dennis and the cats, and my books and my writing most of all.
And now, as I’ve grown older, I’ve realized that the way to take stress out of Christmas, not to mention the expense and debt people get themselves into by overdoing it, is to just not buy into the entire commercial part of the season at all. I’m the shopkeepers’ worst nightmare – I am the least consumer-driven person on the planet. I hate to shop, even when I do have money, and now is a time when I don’t have much money at all, so I’m looking for ways to economize as much as possible. I’ve down-sized my life, and if there is a way to get something for free, or preferably do without it, I avoid shopping and buying altogether. The only extravagance in my life right now is my plane ticket to Bequia, and even then I look for the cheapest flights possible. I’m not cheap, but I am frugal. And I’ve learned the very important lesson of knowing the difference between wants and needs.
I do totally enjoy whatever I discover to do that’s free: like walking around Calgary during early December to look at the lights and decorations (and if my skates had been with me in Calgary I might have taken a turn or two on the outside rink in Olympic Square), exchanging Christmas greetings with friends on Facebook and by email, sitting on the verandah of my house in Bequia, as I’m doing right now, with our cats and Dennis, reading books (not the cats, though, as they’re wisely still sleeping), drinking a third cup of coffee, and appreciating the silence of the island as it wakes up, the sound of the surf crashing on the shore, a couple of motors on small dinghies as they make their way in to the jetty, the sun shining, very little breeze, and a few scattered clouds that seem to promise a rain-free day, for a change. Only one car, so far, breaking the serenity by blaring Country-and-Western Christmas music…
So, to all of my stressed-out friends, and those who are sad that they didn’t receive the presents they wished for, or didn’t get everything accomplished that they thought they had to do by last night, I say (and I quote Robert Kroetsch here), Too bad! Remember, there’s always next year when you can once again aspire to attain the perfect Christmas. But, as Dennis and I agreed last night, around our house Dec. 25th is just another day, like any other day, and it should never be something people get all stressed out about nor should they do anything because others make them feel that they have to. In fact, let’s give Christmas back to the Christians, and make every day of the year one of peace on earth and good will towards people in general.