I’ve always found it a little ironic—and painful—that Christmas begins (if you consider the Christian celebration not the co-opting of all the other customs) because of a poor family…and yet, Christmas today is incredibly painful and difficult for the poor.
Years ago, I was in my local Bargain Harold’s (a Canadian store—a five and dime type, kinda run-down version of KMart)…and there at the cash were a couple with a pile of items that they were purchasing. As the cashier picked up each one, the woman would turn to the man and ask—looking for reassurance—“Your mom will like this, right?” “This is good for your sister, right?”. Each item was incredibly cheap and not particularly nice. They hadn’t lucked into anything where people would be pleasantly shocked to find how little you’d paid. There were no bargains. This was pre-dollar store days, and it was just a cheap little store with cheap little items.
And it broke my fucking heart.
There was this couple with clearly next-to-no-money agonising over every single little thing so that they could give Christmas presents to family members. For what reason especially I don’t know—because Christmas was so important to them, because their family had more money than they and they had to keep up, because they just couldn’t get away from the financial reality of the season. But, honestly, it was this moment that made me hate Christmas. Hate it with a fiery passion. And I grew up completely dirt-poor—I’d had many a Christmas with no gifts, with a family embarrassed at not being able to reciprocate if they received presents from others. But this was the moment that did it for me.
We say “it’s all about family.” We say that because that’s what the fucking commercials and tv specials say. The commercials and tv specials and songs which are all just ads for us to buy stuff for Christmas so that retailers make their cash. Retailers make 25% of their total yearly sales in December. At least 25%. Sometimes, much more than that. We’re told that number over and over, as if we should understand that we have some sort of obligation to keep that money train running. After all, if we don’t buy, if they don’t make their 25% then bad things will happen—that’s what keeps the economy going, us spending our money for them.
Except, in a world where the six people who own Wal-Mart have as much money as the bottom 30% of Americans, that’s bullshit. Absolute pure and simple. The money is going on up high high and higher…and we’re ending up poorer and poorer each year.
This has been an incredibly crappy year for me and mine. There has been a problem with almost every single job we’ve had this year—jobs delayed for months (one which would have paid a large advance has been delayed at least a year), or cancelled outright. Or editors changed their minds and went with a different artist. Or the writer changed his mind and asked for a different artist. Too many problems to list. It has been a Very Not Good year.
And it’s Christmas. And Christmas is “all about family”. And for those who don’t like to do the big gifting piles, generally it comes down to “well, it’s all about the kids”. And we have a few of those—four, in fact, and my eldest son’s common-law wife. So, five “kids” to provide Christmas for. And my husband’s family with the nephews and niece. And my extended family of nephews and nieces.
I honestly truly despise Christmas these days. It used to be about decorating and making everything sparkly and pretty—a change from what the house usually looks like. Making it “dressed up” like dressing up for a party. And I loved decorating the tree with my kids, each of them putting up their own box of ornaments that they’ve been receiving, one a year, from me. But now I’m filled with bitterness and anger and resentment. I hate that I’m expected to buy presents—and that if they aren’t of any significance then they will be a disappointment. Although the same tv specials trill about “it’s the thought that counts”, commercial after commercial points out that you don’t want to leave people disappointed on Christmas Day.
I hate that with one side of the family we are in such a significantly different income bracket from the others that we can’t possibly hope to keep up with the gifting in any way. I stopped, years ago, from giving presents to adults, because it was a useless enterprise. I hate that my kids make lists and I scour them trying to figure out the cheapest way to get some things that will make them happy—and wonder why I do.
The Spirit of Christmas? I don’t have it. I really, really don’t have it.