So, Uh, About That Tree…

Yeah, okay, guilty.

I’m that asshole who put her tree up on November 29th and made you feel like a totally unorganized idiot, or like I’m part of the conspiracy to make Christmas encroach further into our lives.

But I say NAY. NAY, it is not encroaching!

I don’t know when it started, but for a couple decades at least I’ve associated the week FOLLOWING American Thanksgiving as the official start of “When it’s acceptable to talk about… Christmas.”

You'll shoot your eye out, kid!

Still, I typically do my Christmas one week later, on December 6th. This year, I see myself getting crazy busy over the next while, and I don’t want to overdo my December, and I also don’t want to get into the position I was in when I got it up on the 19th one year. Starting a week earlier gives me breathing space. (And makes it likely I’ll stick to my tradition of taking it down on New Year’s Day night.)

But there’s a deeper reason for me to start Christmas early this year.

It’s been a lousy fucking year at times. It’s ENDING well, but the first 8-9 months you coulda kept, thanks.

From January to June was pretty sucktastic especially. Between the Japan thing, blowing my back, dead people, and other things I’d rather be flippant about than think seriously on, well, it was an often-bleak period for me.

I’ve had low-grade depression for a long time now, well over a year, and but I’m really optimistic about where 2012 might go because I like how this year is ending.

There’s a mental game that comes with adversity and we don’t always win. I know I haven’t been, and I’ve been trying to flip the script.

Christmas is pretty much the biggest script one can flip, if one’s tired about the way things are looking in life.

Christmas, at its heart, is a time made of myth and imagination. Fun stories and hopefully good memories abound. Yummy foods and warm drinks are everywhere.

These are a few of my favourite things.

I don’t like the commercialization of Christmas, and never have. I don’t buy gimmicky things and I don’t give a lot.

So, last night, when I tweeted a picture of my tree last night, and @Unambig said “It looks like 1984,” it was one of the nicest things ever. (He expounded here.)

For me, that’s the gold standard of Christmas. The early ’80s. Christmas was certainly commercialized, but in a more romantic and fun kind of way. Today’s commercialization dresses it up that way but I don’t believe them. It’s disingenuine. Time to replace that iPhone that works perfectly fine with yet a snazzier iPhone, kids! Spend, spend, spend!

Not me.

I won’t do a lot for Christmas. I’ll get out and see some people but I’ll also take a lot of time for myself. I won’t spend a lot, either, compared to others. I’ll make most of the gifts I give. The few I buy will be ones I hope to really be liked, but they won’t be expensive. I’ll give pies, candy, and other yummy things, and it will take a long time to make it all. And that’s okay! Generous in spirit, I can be that.

In the past, I’ve spent, but I’ve avoided malls and the standard “easy way out” online gifts.

Like, one year, I took a weekend in early December to hunt for unusual gifts, back when I had the cash to do so. I drove out to the Valley, to the Fort Langley Antique Mall, and dropped my wad on collectibles. For one friend, a 1956 red rotary-dial telephone, like they used to have in all the old movies about nuclear scares in the ’50s and ’60s. NO, NOT THE RED PHONE! Commie fuckers!

Yeah, I gave one just like this set. I'm awesome. :)

Then, also bought that day, there’s the mint-condition set of 4 Empire Strikes Back special edition glasses issued by Burger King in 1980. That went over well. I don’t think they’ve ever been used, they’re in some shadow box somewhere, I suspect. A father-to-son legacy gift for the now-5-years-old son to have one decade down the line.

Last year, I was unemployed. There were no such generous gifts from me. Instead, I made people candy and other things.

Still… by just accepting that I didn’t have the cash for Christmas-as-usual, and embracing the older ideas — cooking from scratch, giving little well-planned made-by-me gifts, and things like that — I rediscovered the FUN of Christmas.

I enjoyed the bustle of picking up necessities because I wasn’t part of the shopping pandemonium last year. I found more time to slow down and see Christmassy things and take moments for myself. Somehow, it felt more like the Christmases I knew as a kid. It felt simpler, easier, and more enjoyable.

I ran into others who had found themselves in similarly-pinched positions after layoffs, fewer clients, and other ongoing-recession-related situations, and they all had to make the choice of bemoaning their situation and dismissing Christmas altogether, or giving in and trying to get creative about personalized gifts to give. Once they gave in and went with what they could afford, they too found that Christmas was more fun. They didn’t have the stress of how they’d pay it off in January or February because they couldn’t get themselves in that position, and, bam! The bonus to that was, they just didn’t have STRESS.

I’ve spoken with some of those folk since and all of them are looking forward to Christmas more this year. They’re planning ahead for what to do, how to cut pennies, how to enjoy the moment. Just like me. They’re not feeling pressure, they’re just planning well in advance for how to schedule their time for creativity, and balancing that with the fun life that comes in the holiday season.

I’m saving in other ways, too. Like last year, I’m ditching the expensive turkey and making a ground-pork tourtiere instead (this recipe, amazing). About a third the cost and every bit as traditional and wonderful to look forward to noshing. Best part is, I can make it up to two days ahead of time and really enjoy the entertainment of Christmas eve with friends again.

Does Christmas within a budget SORT OF suck? Sure. So does life on a budget, but that has to be the way we live now.

Hey, it’d be wonderful to be able to afford to give awesomeness-with-big-pricetags to friends and family I care about, but I can’t. I live in this recession. I’ve been affected by it for a long, long time, and that makes me pretty ordinary. The living-within-means thing is getting old, but that’s just life.

So, we do what we can and we have fun with what we’ve got.

If putting a tree up on November 29th makes it easier for me to make that all happen, then that’s how we’re playing it.

Christmas is about whatever you want it to be about. You’re a Christian? Great, celebrate Jesus. A heathen like me? Santa!

But, for all of us, it should always be about just remembering to find a little time for people, give a little more of yourself than you normally do, and being kind to others.

You would think having an extra week of that in our lives wouldn’t be such a pain in the ass for some of you.

Maybe it wouldn’t be, if you found a way to remember the simplicity of Christmas, and practiced its ideals rather than buying the “Give till it Hurts” mentality that spoils the modern commercial holiday for so many.