Grinching and Gifting

Every year I feel grumpy about Christmas.  Sometimes it’s severely raging grumpy bitchy grinchy.  Other years, like this one, it’s more sort of sigh-grumbly.  

For me, winter (especially this one, after I’ve been sick) feels like a time to stay indoors and enjoy the long dark nights and reflect, hibernate, restore.  I am attracted to the parties and social time with friends, but part of me senses that the holiday buzz and tinsel and lights are a cultural attempt at avoiding our bodies’ and planet’s natural, instinctive turn toward darkness.
Still, I’m inspired by my friend DH, who lets her inner child really enjoy the lights and the magic of the season.  Perhaps one of these years I’ll rediscover that part…  
I only had a couple of years of the full-on Christmas experience as a kid.  Until age seven, I grew up in New Zealand. It was a homogenous Christian country at the time, and people tended to mark it as a religious holy day in private or with their churches.  It certainly wasn’t the humongous commercial extravaganza that it is now in the United States.
I was in second grade when we moved to the United States.  My parents started getting a tree and (more?) gifts for us each year. They didn’t want us to feel left out (which I appreciate!), and I think they liked it, too, even though it was probably lots of extra work and required careful budgeting.  It was fun to get Stuff, and I liked singing Christmas carols in school. I was already 7, though, and maybe I believed in Santa Claus for a year or two, or maybe not even that. 
Eventually, as an adult, I started being grossed out by the commercialism and the obligatory nature of the holiday.  So many people I know just dread, absolutely dread, having to spend time with certain family members whom they can barely tolerate and don’t see for the rest of the year. And the consumption mania is rather out of control.  So a few years ago I tried to stop exchanging gifts with my family, suggesting we just spend time together but not shop.  
My brother agreed, so now he and I don’t exchange gifts.  He’s got a big family and plenty of people to shop for.  Plus, we’re both grown and neither of us really needs Stuff.  Or maybe he was just like, “Whatever, weird sister.” :)
But my parents weren’t having it. My mother said: “You don’t have to get us anything, but I’m gonna get YOU something no matter what!”  Way to lay down the law, Mum. So I feel sort of sheepish writing a letter to Santa at my age, but it’s best if I say what I really want, and find out what they really want, and it can all be rather nice if I keep it in perspective and stay grateful instead of getting stressed.
I still think Christmas is best for kids, though.  My nieces don’t need any Stuff either, of course; their toy room overfloweth.   But now they are old enough (5, 5, and 6.5) to have definitive preferences: One likes fairies and princesses, while another despises them. One likes pink, another likes purple.  So their letters to Santa are actually quite helpful, and I think I might actually do the Xmas thing for them this year.  (Usually I send them stuff in an erratic, year-round way instead.)  My brother and sister-in-law try to ensure that the girls’ lists for Santa are realistic (no ponies) and include a range of prices.  
So here, from the mouths of the babes, is what’s hot in the kindergarten set:
Tea also wants fairy and princess stuff.  Zoe likes books, so I’m going to get her A Poet’s Journey, a lovely fable that the author says is suitable for pre-readers and readers age 4-7 (or just young at heart).  
And Ava wants a model V8 engine.  Go, Ava!  Who says the auto industry is dead?
I also have a god-daughter, but I suspect she and her little sister are a bit too young to know what they really want.  They would probably be happy with a big cardboard box to unwrap and climb inside of.
My parents are getting something I won’t post here, in case they happen to read this.
Me, I want:
  • a camera (was gonna write, digital camera, but I guess they’re ALL digital now) that can take both still pictures and a few minutes of video, is Mac-compatible, and has an underwater housing so I can take it diving.  
  • a bundt pan, because I’ve been wanting to try out some cool cake recipes from this awesome vegan cookbook that require one.
  • world peace.
What can I say, I may be grinchy but I’m still greedy.  Does that make me a true American?
I also would like a pony.  No, make that a unicorn. 
Happy holidays to you, if you celebrate.  May you be granted everything you need this season, and the best of what you want, too.

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