In early spring of 2007 I decided to quit my job, sell my house along with nearly everything else that I owned, and to live out of my car while traveling the country. These are my stories (and pictures) of life on the road.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Christmas Spirit

So it's Christmas time once again. Time to be bombarded by ads for things we don't need, time to hit the malls, and time to max out those credit cards!

Let me start out by saying right now that I'm not a religious person. Sometimes I feel a little bit weird celebrating a holiday that means so much to so many other people when it doesn't really mean anything to me. My reason for continuing to celebrate though is that it's one of the few times a year nearly the entire family gets together and the only time that I get to see some of them.

When I was a kid I used to enjoy Christmas and could “get into the spirit” so to speak; but really I think that was mostly due to the presents. As I grew older I began to almost dread the arrival of Christmas. Within a week of Thanksgiving I'm sick of most of the Christmas songs and every year the remakes and “funny” Christmas songs just seem to get worse and worse.

Every year I put off buying presents because I'm waiting until I think of “just the right gift” for so and so. The right gift never comes to me though and invariably I find myself wandering some big-box store with glossed over eyes as I stand shoulder to shoulder with a thousand other shoppers. I walk up and down each isle five times not seeing anything that my dad would actually want or use. In the end I find something to spend $100 on that I think he might decide he likes, even though he never knew he had a desire to own one. Sometimes it works, most of the time it doesn't. The whole time I'm doing this I'm feeling bad because I know that other people are being put through the exact same thing trying to find a gift for me.

The other option is that the gift recipient gives me a list of the items they would like me to purchase for them. Gee, that's a gift straight from the heart. I have a hard time making up lists for other people, if there was something I needed or wanted badly then I've already bought it for myself. How can I tell someone else what I want if I couldn't go into the store myself and find something that I wanted.

There is one person out there though who loves every present that you buy, both large and small. They're never disappointed no matter what you buy, wrap up, and stick under the tree. That person is the one who owns the retail store or manufacturer and they're the ones behind this whole mess. They're the ones that start Christmas earlier and earlier every year. They're the ones that market you needless things while convincing you it's a necessity. They're the ones that tell you that the only way to know that someone actually loves you is if they spend a lot of money on your present. They're the ones that cause millions and millions of people to spend money that they don't have every year just trying to prove their affection for everyone else. They're the ones that want you to believe that that is the true spirit of Christmas.

For me last year was my breaking point. I didn't enjoy the months leading up to Christmas and I didn't really enjoy Christmas either. I can't remember any of the gifts that I gave and can only remember a couple that I got; they were given to me because they were on my “list”. I watched everyone else open most of their gifts while feigning a smile and a trying to sound enthusiastic when they said “thank you”. Never before had I been quite so disenchanted with Christmas and I think what really drove it home was when our whole family went to the bowling alley for a couple hours. We were the only ones there and we took up 4 or 5 lanes. There were contests for high and low scores (I won low score, thank you very much) and we all had a blast. A couple years before that we'd made up a Jeopardy game and all the questions/answers were about each other. Another year we got ahold of a Karaoke machine and set it up in the basement.

Those are the things that I remember, not the presents. Those memories will stick with me longer then any enjoyment I'd get out of someone's gift; and they were free. No matter what your reasons for celebrating Christmas I think we can all agree that it's things like that that best exemplify the Christmas spirit.

When Christmas was over last year I decided that I wasn't going to buy people presents for holidays or their birthdays anymore; and I told them that I didn't expect them to buy anything for me either. Instead I decided that I'd get them something when I felt like it. If I saw something that I thought my sister would like then I'd buy it for her; it would be more of a gift from the heart then buying something just for the sake of buying it.

So far I'm liking this new philosophy and for the first time in years am actually looking forward to Christmas; it helps though that I don't watch TV anymore so I don't have to put up with all the holiday ads. Today my aunt sent out an e-mail about how the gift exchange will work this year. We always draw names, two names per person. It's usually one “big” and one “little” gift, but this year it's going to be done a little bit differently. One of the gifts will be a book, preferably a book that you think will mean something to the recipient or that will tell them a little something about the giver. I really like that idea and at first regretted that I'd opted out of the gift giving. Then I remembered that I hadn't opted out of the gift giving at all, just the receiving. I can get something for anyone that I want; and I probably will.

Let me say in closing that I don't think gift giving in and of itself is a bad thing; as long as it's done from the heart. I find that giving a gift that's truly come from the heart is better then any gift I could possibly receive. Also, receiving a gift from someone who gave it from their heart is an amazing experience as well. It makes you realize just how meaningless all other gifts really are. If you want to give gifts on Christmas then that's great, but don't do it just to do it; make them count, make them from the heart.


Anonymous said...

i couldn't agree more ;)

Roy G said...

Easy for anonymous to agree with you, he is not the one getting screwed out of his Christmas presents. (-:

uru said...

we thought of this idea just to make you feel bad.

You've reached the end of the page but that's not the end of the stories. If you want to read more (and who wouldn't!?) then click on the archive links to the right hand side of the page. They're listed by month; the adventure starts in May.

The February archives aren't actually from this trip but are previous adventures I've had, which are worth reading as well.