Forty years ago, I unplugged the Christmas machine. Every year as an adult, through 1978, I ended up getting what I called “The Christmas Creeping Crud.” Why? Because of the stress of shopping, shipping, decorating, cooking, baking, entertaining, writing a newsletter to go with 250 holiday cards and showing up at numerous parties and events. Heaven forbid my husband and I should disappoint anyone!
Then in 1978, I snapped. It was Christmas Eve, and we were asked to drop by the home of one of Burt’s employees. Somehow it seemed important to these people that we watch their 9-year-old son open his presents. There we stood, eggnog in one hand, a rum ball in the other, while little Tommy ripped into his presents. I counted 23. Never once did Tommy say, “Oh boy, just what I always wanted.” Not once did he turn around to say thank you. I felt sick, and it wasn’t from the eggnog and rum ball.
That scene was life-changing. Even monkeys learn from experience. I shared with Burt that I needed to take a break from all the commercialism because Christmas had lost its meaning. It wasn’t easy for my husband, one of the world’s most giving and generous souls. He reluctantly agreed to try, as long as we warned friends and family ahead of time. Christmas of 1979 was unbelievably peaceful and free of stress. I did not get the flu, and I didn’t care when a few called me “Scrooge.”
There is an old saying: “If something hurts badly enough, you have to be nuts to keep on doing it.”
A few years ago, in early December, a friend mentioned she was almost finished with her Christmas shopping. Before I could ask if she shopped locally, she said she did it all online because it was convenient and cheaper.
Two women wrote a book in 1982 called “Unplug the Christmas Machine — A Complete Guide to Putting Love and Warmth Back into the Season.” Obviously, they had also reached some sort of a breaking point. I highly recommend this book.
After 1979, we did not ignore the holiday altogether but simply focused on extreme moderation. Here is what felt really good: the money we would have spent on stuff nobody needed went where it was truly needed. You do not have to look very far.
Here’s a story that still touches my heart. When I told my aging and nearly blind mother that we were making changes because I was sick and tired of getting sick and tired, she said, “Well, now you have us really thinking. I can’t get out and shop anymore, your father won’t do it and we don’t know what to do about the grandchildren.”
“Mom,” I said, “those kids have more stuff than they need. Why don’t you and Dad pray about it and maybe you’ll get your answer.” They called their pastor and asked him to come by for a check. The money went to people in their church family who were really in need of help. My parents loved their new way of doing Christmas.
Here is how my personal gift-giving has evolved. Birthdays and anniversaries are honored. But the best gift of all is what I call “a love gift.” Just try giving someone you care about a gift for no occasion — no reason except to show how much you value that person. Don’t be surprised if he or she starts doing the same thing for others.
If Christmas gift-giving still means that much to you, at least consider the local merchants who are struggling to stay in business.
If this column has you thinking, consider homeless folks in this county, and I know the Food Share shelves have never been so bare. Here is the number for Lincoln County Food Share: 541-265-8578. I bet if you call, you will end up in your own pantry finding things you can spare to share with those who are hungry. Money is always welcome.
May this holiday season be joyful and meaningful for all of you.
Bobbie Lippman is a professional writer who lives in Seal Rock with her cat, Purrfect. She is the author of “Good Grief: A Collection of Stories As One Woman Journeys From Heartbreak To Healing Through Honesty and Humor.” The book, with all proceeds going to the Rotary International Foundation, is available at JC Market in Newport and directly from Bobbie, who can be contacted at [email protected]