Complicate the Holidays!*

Two years ago I finished Bill McKibbon’s book Hundred Dollar Holiday and received my first Center for a New American Dream‘s newsletter in my email inbox.  They both issued clarion calls to Simplify!

Today I realize, I still want urge other to contemplate something more counter-intuitive – instead – Complicate your holidays.

complicate the holidays

Here’s what I mean.

What both of these speakers want is a reduction of stuff at the holidays, particularly some sorts of technologies, expensive new clothes, mass produced cheap shit, and anything else you might buy on Black Friday.

But, they aren’t alone in those types of sentiments.  Actually, everyone wants a simplified holiday! That’s the advice on the cover of every single magazine in November and December – how to make your hosting simple, cooking easy, and workouts lightning fast, and still lose five pounds!But the real reason you’re trying to cut down on the stuff? So life can be little more complicated. How so?

Because the things we’re talking about replacing those items with are Complicated.  Things like:

  • Friendship
  • Gratitude
  • Volunteering
  • Thought
  • Celebration
  • Peace

The list of suggestions to simplify your holidays starts with something extremely personal and precious, and yes, complicated.

 It starts with giving your time.  Whereas I can always earn more money, and will, I can’t earn back any of my time.  In giving time, suddenly we find ourselves committed to drawing closer to that person.  By engaging with other deeply by sharing our time – we may find out the truth behind the easy veneer we all often paste over our messy lives.  We might be pulled in – and in the process bind ourselves more closely.

Though choosing the perfect holiday gift for someone does require some knowledge of their preferences, so often we don’t think about what we give at the holidays.  We just pull what looks good off the shelf, to fulfill an obligation.  Spending time with others instead, is a surprisingly one-size-fits-all gift that is tailor-made.

And what about using our time to make gifts, something crafted, baked, or constructed?   If we choose to give gifts made of our time and materials we will also need to redefine our values.  Especially the ones we’ve received from unceasing advertising.   We will no longer be able to stomach slick and (worse still) cheap.  We certainly can’t prize perfection, because home made isn’t mass produced with machines.  If we’re complicating things by preparing a meal from scratch, we can’t prize efficiency too much.  No one wants a microwaved TV dinner for Christmas, however fast it might be.  And, if we’re complicating things by purchasing used gifts, we had better not have too much pride.  Giving someone a gift that has been used is a little exercise in humility.

Simplifying Complicating the holidays boils down to community – which is messy, time consuming business. 

So, Complicate on folks, it’s only December 5th November 24th and there is one more month filled with plenty of complication left (and 12 more after that if you like to keep on celebrating past Epiphany as do my Anglican readers.)

*This post was originally posted on December 5, 2011 – but updated on November 24, 2013.

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Author: Beth M

Life Lessons, Parenting, Books, Sustainability.

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