I’ve been thinking about our tradition of handmade gifts, and about when to just lighten up. What got me thinking was a friend who remarked that she’s upset when people buy her children toys for Christmas. I understand her feelings, in that she doesn’t want to cultivate the notion that Christmas is about getting a bunch of cheap plastic crap, or more generally, that it’s about consumerism and greed. She wants to give her children things that are handmade, and to teach them to appreciate this miraculous season rather than stuff. But to buy someone’s child a toy for Christmas is a generous impulse, one that deserves to be met with something better than frustration or resentment. And if we’re being honest, we should admit that kids are all about cheap plastic crap. They love it. It brings them joy. Once it’s been gifted to them, it is really darn hard to take it away from them. So I say, if it’s not dangerous, let them keep it, and help them compose a thank you note – that, too, is an opportunity for teaching gratitude and graciousness.
I think that like most things in life, Christmas must offer a middle path. If the point of Christmas is to enjoy the time with family and friends, to celebrate faith and love and grace, then let’s not stress over gifts at all. Let’s be generous in accordance with our own values, when it comes to gift giving, and let us be equally gracious with our gift receiving, and accept things in the spirit with which they are offered.
Here’s my confession: there are actually a few material things that I want for Christmas. They’re all things that need replacing, in my life. I wore out my brown loafers. My wonderful calendar, with which I decorate our bedroom, and which was in itself a gift, is about to expire. I lost my very favorite hat, a lovely grey cashmere thing, on my Portland trip. Moths got all the way into my cedar chest last winter, and munched right through some favorite sweaters. And I shrunk a dress in the dryer, leaving it about three inches too short. Finally, there’s a ukulele, not because I had one that needs replacing, but because I need to change the way I allocate my time, and spend it on something useful, like learning an instrument! With no further ado, here are the material things that I am wishing for this Christmastime (I promise to get back to the homemade posts after this one):
And because I think it’s lovely, even though I have all the jewelry I could ever want, this olive branch necklace makes the list as well.
What about you readers? What’s your plan for presents this year?
My wishlist, for those who are wondering: