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.


The 12 Crafts of Christmas: Day 8 Annual Traditions

There’s a lot of pressure to have traditions at Christmas.  But, truth is, “first annual” is an oxymoron.  Nevertheless, that’s where I am with having “family” traditions. Lucky for me, 6-month-old’s don’t remember much, and nobody remembers being 6 months old.  In fact, I figure that we’ve got a good five years to come up with “traditions.”

Rather than put pressure on myself to plunk down a bunch of traditions all at once, I came up with the idea that we would add one tradition each year.  That is, amidst all the great things that occur at Christmas, we were going to try and make one of them happen again the following Christmas.

In order not to forget what we wanted to repeat, I bought an inexpensive photo album at AC Moore, and decorated a page with the tradition we started.  This year, it’s our night of carols and cocoa.

The Last 2 Weeks of 2011

Well, there are 2 full weeks left of 2011.   The way they stand right now they will be full of celebration, gift giving, trying to fit in a few more “trips” on my list of family excursions, and putting the finishing touches on my New Years Resolutions. How Wonderful!  I love all those things.

Because I want to spend more time brainstorming and less time writing in the upcoming few weeks, I plan to take a short hiatus from writing blog posts.

This break springs out of my 2012 NYR to practice better blogging.  I want to step back and think fully on what this could mean in my blog for next year.   I’m still surprised that this blog has evolved into something that I really love doing.  However, there are 7 other NYR I want to flesh out more fully as well.  You can hear about them in January, when I’ll be interested in reading and hearing about other people’s goals and resolutions as well.

After Christmas I plan to post the 12 days of Christmas Crafts, a few of the things that I found time to make and bake and celebrate during our holidays at the household.  There will even be a showcase of a few things made for us by other people.  Following that, I will resume with what I hope to be a continually evolving blog – both thoughtful and interesting to myself and others.

Merry Christmas!