The Day After: Christmas Hangover

I thoroughly enjoyed Christmas. Time with family is always a good thing, and with lots of babies around, the joy is that much greater. However, here we are, the day after, and I’m experiencing the same Christmas Hangover I’ve experienced the last few years.
You wake up and there’s wrapping paper strewn about, the house is a mess. Your stomach aches from all the food you munched on through out the day, and your mental muscles are throbbing as you contemplate who gave you what, where your going to get thank you cards to thank them, what your going to do with all the extra stuff you now have, and how your going to balance your budget in light of the extra shopping splurge. As if that wasn’t enough, my biggest struggle is with regret. There are a lot of things I find myself regretting about the holiday season, but these are the primary ones.

I regret not being more outspoken about my thoughts and opinions. I tend to try and keep my mouth semi-shut from Thanksgiving through Christmas about consumerism. Sure I’ll mention Buy Nothing Day, charities to donate to, and Christmas is not your Birthday, but overall I really try not to push the anti-consumerism buttons too much during this time. I worry about coming across as a Scrooge. Yet, December 26th rolls around and I wish I’d said more. As I recognize others aches over their busted budget, realize there where many who would have eagerly agreed with me if I had just made some suggestions, and as I admit my passive contribution to the consumeristic culture I try to avoid.

I regret not being more grateful and cheerful during this season. As much as I try to express genuine thanks for gifts, people’s kindness, and general cheerfulness about the ‘reason for the season’, I feel like I often fall short. Regardless of how I feel about gifts, the reality is people who love me put time, effort and money into showing that through tangible gifts to me. Regardless of how I feel about the overdone ‘holiday’, it is a time where people genuinely think about others, donate, volunteer, give, and love. Even if I have problems with the motivation, I can’t deny that there are some pretty amazing things given this time of year.

I regret not making a wishlist. This is a very practical one. Every year, regardless of my desire to have gifts donated on my behalf, to not receive things I don’t need, and to avoid the consumerism, my loved ones still desire to express their love through the purchase of things for me. The truth is there are things that I need and want. If I would just go to the little extra effort of being specific and helping my loved ones out, they would be able to experience the joy of giving and I the joy of receiving something I specifically want.

I regret my lack of effort in my giving. As much as possible, we give donations on behalf of our loved ones during the holidays. We like to donate to World Vision and World Relief, donating items specific to the individual they are in honor of (A pig for the aspiring farmer, a child’s tuition for the teacher, a new mom kit on behalf of a new mom). One of the first times we did this we made paper mache animals representing the donation. Now, it’s become so routine that I haven’t put much additional love and effort behind the giving. I’d love to do more hand crafted gifts, labor of love type gifts.

I’m not sure if others experience similar regrets after the holidays, but I’m going to make it a goal to change that this coming year. It might mean I make some hand made things and store them for the next 11 months, but I’m going to put more love in my holiday spirit next time around.

8 thoughts on “The Day After: Christmas Hangover”

  1. dude. i agree wholeheartedly about the being quiet part. it sucks so bad trying to be polite and generous but then i always feel like crap about it. and i’m not sure why everybody else gets a pass on spouting their pro-consumeristic views.

    it’s incredibly awkward though. on my side of the family i let my parents have it and we have robust conversations on all kinds of economic philosophies. not so easy with the in-laws.

    i told anna about 15 times that next year i’m just going to be a bad ass and confront everybody and make them feel like crap everytime they share a stupid opinion by asking them like a hundred questions about the books they’ve read, the differences between complicated terms and all other stuff. i figure if i jump them and make them feel stupid they’ll at least shut up.

    so much for merry christmas when i turn into scrooge eh?

  2. I tried making most of my gifts this year. I figure eventually they will start getting the hint. I refused to make Christmas lists for my husband and I this year. I’m just tired of it.
    I really liked your idea of making a symbolic present of a donation. Sweet!

  3. What I regret is not keeping my eyes open for gifts at the thrift store all year. I went out yesterday and found perfect gifts for my daughter’s birthday in April. (Of course there is always the danger of being consumeristic at the thrift store too.)

    This year I sent out very specific instructions and those who bothered to check their email really tried. What I think we have to remember is that our family members have a totally different world view and it is extremely difficult to escape it. I can see how horrible the consumeristic world view is and yet I find it difficult to avoid. What must it be like for those who can’t even see it? Unfortunately, they are rarely or more likely never hearing prophetic preaching about this in their churches and communities. It only goes so far for us to speak about it. As Jesus said, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” (Mark 6:4)

    I think that you’re right, Ariah, about making wish lists. This year at the top of my list I included three charities that they could support in my name. Although nobody did that, the gifts that I received were much more modest and practical than in the past so maybe they took the hint that I really didn’t want much. I’m actually quite happy with what people gave me this year. They actually did a decent job with the kids (probably as well as could be expected).

    As for giving to others, I felt really frustrated with the obligatory gift giving, but I was really happy with what I bought from etsy. I was a little worried that my four year old would be so spoiled that she wouldn’t like what I got her (a wooden treasure chest and a felt crown with her name on it) but she was actually thrilled.

  4. i don’t know if i can say i have the same extent of regrets, but in many ways i am right with you brother. the amount of stuff my niece and nephews received just overwhelmed erin & myself. we talked about it on the ride home. “how much is too much?” if we got our children this amount, then this person, this person, this person, etc will get them something and that will be like 20 things.. holy crap! how do we avoid that?

    we have talked about possibly getting everyone to pitch in on something, like a massive gift certificate for kid stuff that is needed, as needed. beyond that, we are stumped.

    we did do a cool thing with on of our family “dirty santas” we started exchanging gifts from within our homes. so no one bought anything. we also had a sorta casino night where we bought chips, gambled with each other (darts, cards, loose dice game, etc.) trying to win for our designated charities. after one hour the top three money winners split the whole pot and donated to their charities. it was fun and something that was started when my cousin and i last year opted out of getting a 50 dollar gift for a donation to organizations that we are invested in.

    just an idea.

  5. We’ve talked about this before. I do not understand how our families can continue to overload us, even when we specifically tell them what they should get us. We gave both sets of grandparents specific suggestions for each of our kids; they followed the suggestions and then some. Once we had put out the gifts under the tree, I felt a little embarrassed because there was so much there! And we didn’t get most of it. How do we continue to be thankful when our wishes are ignored?
    We chose to spend our afternoon at the downtown center for the free lunch program. We enjoyed a Christmas dinner and the company of others. It was very nice. They gave away many needed and wanted items to the people present. One of the women kept telling me to take my daughter back there to pick out the toy she wanted so it wouldn’t be gone and her heart broken. I thanked the woman, but kept my mouth shut about our earlier Christmas. I felt strange. Should I tell her we just came to be with the people there, that we did not need anything?
    It was a good Christmas, but overwhelming in that now I feel I have an expectation to live up to with my children. If they only got a few things, then many things would be exciting. Now they get many things and if they don’t I’m afraid they will become disappointed during the season. And that isn’t even what the season is all about!

  6. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Ariah. (Hi Dawn!) Elizabeth and I had a really tough time this year with all of this. Living back near family made it alot harder to “control” the Christmas circumstances. Every year her family draws names for all the nieces and nephews and they exchange gifts and get together for the obligatory appetizers and exchanging of the gifts. Elizabeth and I suggested we pool all the money together and purchase an animal from Heifer International. At one point, her family was insulted by our suggestion. They calmed down a little, but the obligatory exchanging of gifts was scheduled during a time when we were unable to attend. Hmmm…maybe next year. There is definitely a magical anticipation about the Christmas holiday season that we want our kids to experience. The question is the source of the magical anticipation. Tradition always helps create anticipation, so what traditions will we start, or continue? This year, instead of gifts from my family, we went on a trip together. The time spent was alot of fun. But even though we explained to our girls that our trip was their present, they were still bummed when there wasn’t anything under the tree on Christmas morning.

    Ariah, our neighbors have five adult children in their family and a few years ago, they all started making gifts for each other. They draw names still, but instead of purchasing, the gift has to be homemade somehow. It still takes some money but it also takes some effort and time. Maybe this could be a step for your family away from the typical American Christmas.

  7. Thanks for all the thoughts and suggestions everyone. I’m glad I’m not struggling with this alone.

    Fortunately, my kids too young to remember any of it just yet. Also, I think if we make a serious effort to talk about it now with the family, we’ll have a good chance of shaping the kiddos up bringing as it relates to Santa and the holidays. I can’t imagine trying to rework their view of things at an older age, I’d love to know how that’s going.

    I’m definitely going to discuss this more as it seems there is a lot of wisdom from others to be shared. Peace.

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