It came without ribbons!… it came without tags!… it came without packages, boxes, or bags!Posted by HCGH on Dec 12, 2012 in Health, Mental Health, Parenting | 0 comments
by Mary Catherine Cochran
I’ve been called the Grinch, Ebenezer Scrooge and a few other choice things. I understand. They are labels thrown out by people that can’t fathom my particular brand of holiday spirit. To them, there is no holiday without shopping and wrapping… without gift exchanges at the workplace, the preschool, the mom’s group, and the basketball team. It’s the season of giving, right?
Absolutely. Many illuminate the longest nights and darkest days of winter with a celebration that involves giving. It is at that point, however where we usually diverge, as I choose the path less traveled and that has made all the difference in my life.
Long before the downturn in the economy prompted conservation, Occupy Wall Street caused us to consider our own personal levels of greed, and recent studies called to mind our staggering level of consumption; our family chose to tune out the unrelenting cacophony of the holiday season and celebrate Christmas “unplugged.”
Nearly fifteen years ago, on Christmas morning, my husband and I applied the proverbial brakes. Surrounded by a sea of torn wrapping paper, empty boxes and mountains of new non-essential things to put away, we realized that which we had taken months to create, had taken only ten minutes to undo. We had succumbed to commercial interests and become conspicuous consumers. We had filled the landfills with more than our share of stuff. We were stressed and snappish. We had lost sight of our own faith-based reason for the season. And, most heartbreaking- we had lost our most precious gift- time with our children. There was no way to reclaim those dozens of hours lost each year to the commercial clamor of shopping and wrapping of holidays past, but we could rewrite the future.
We resolved to change. Out of respect for the sensibilities of young children, who could understand the theory, but not so much the practice, we eased into our new tradition. We limited the gifts to three presents per child for the first year, but the next year, we were all in- we graduated to Christmas- Unplugged.
We concentrate on what we do, and not on the things we don’t do. We bake cookies. We see the the lights in Hampden or visit the holiday train and monument displays at the United States Botanic Garden. We visit the International Crèche display at the Washington DC Temple. We support the local arts and go into Baltimore to see Tuba Christmas (200 of Maryland’s finest tubas and euphoniums in concert). We try to catch a show- last year it was Monty Python’s Spamalot at the Kennedy Center. We participate in workshops, like the annual Sock Monkey Saturday at the American Visionary Art Museum (memorable for the hopeless looks we received from the men in the family as they tried to stitch their creations together.) We go ice skating outside and take long walks along the Patapsco and Middle Patuxent rivers. We play games like Bananagrams or Cathedral or Apples to Apples. We watch football games together.
Together as a family we celebrate old traditions and create new ones, we carve out time to spend together and in the process, we create lasting memories. Our family has grown and evolved, but the Christmas Unplugged spirit remains a steady reminder that the spirit of the holidays is within us.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, everyone!