Years ago, after enjoying an bountiful feast, my sister and I talked about how Thanksgiving was our favorite holiday because all we had to do was prepare a nice meal. We both knew that the craziness of Christmas expectations were soon to begin…precisely with the opening of Black Friday doors, and were already feeling the weariness just from anticipation. Every year, the ante seemed to be getting higher and higher. It wasn’t enough to give just one gift, or have a nice family get-together. Houses had to be decorated to the hilt, gifts became more extravagant and numerous, one or two batches of cookies insufficient, social obligations more frenetic, and imperfection not an option. No wonder raising Christmas toasts were ever on the rise!
This year, because everything we had went into the purchase of land and construction of the house, we asked for a present-free Christmas. Just as we had prayed for peace in our lives, we asked for a simple and quiet Christmas. Timmy and Tommy, our two newest pointer puppies, made sure that decorations were kept simple. A few decorations were placed up high. Even the tree remained partially decorated until we knew that delicate ornaments wouldn’t become a favored chew toy. It seemed like we were just easing into Christmas Eve.
It was amazing to walk calmly through the downtown, watching others get caught up in the not so gentle hustle and bustle of trying to find just the right gift. Being on the outside of the consumerism felt like watching a surreal Twilight Zone episode. While Chile may not be as prosperous as my native country, it was still caught up in the media-driven madness that has changed the holy day into a secular one.
In the midst of the chaos, I felt peaceful, knowing that all I had to do was prepare a simple dinner feast for four, one appetizer, one entree, a couple of sides, and a dessert. No pressure at all! However, the nagging feeling that I wasn’t living up to holiday dictates persisted. So, after the apartment was cleaned, a tart and hors d’oeuvre made, salads and trout prepped, I slipped out into the wave of last minute shoppers.
At first, I didn’t know what I was doing there. It was crazy, it was against what we had agreed on, but years of carefully honed conditioning by clever marketing experts…a field of which I had once been part…raised its ugly head. So, I went home with a pair of flipflops for my mate, and an insulated backpack for when we go to Pine Cone Hill. Both seemed justified, as the puppies made sure that the old flipflops were hanging together by a glob of rubber, and our current insulated bag had a hole, however, I knew that I had just surrendered to materialistic Christmas expectations that a present HAD to be given.
In the morning, we just laughed, because I had shifted the gift giving to the puppies. However, in the throes of having just experienced a truly peaceful Christmas Eve with family and a friend who is an adopted part of ours, I knew that we were blessed, without the need for all of the societally dictated paraphernalia. While it feels good to give presents, it is more important and enjoyable to simply give lovingly of oneself.