Monday, December 03, 2007

Christmas Schishmas

Working at a large department store during the holiday season started souring me on Christmas. At least the modern American way of celebrating Christmas which is to say to buy an inordinate amount of shit. I would arrive at work when it was still dark and drive home in twilight. Several times a day, my fellow employees and I would empty out dressing rooms exploding with clothes and try to wrangle tables overflowing with piles of sweaters we had so carefully folded only a few hours before. I suffered through an unreasonable number of rude shoppers who complained about the long lines and argued with me over whether or not their "10% off FINE *FUCKING* JEWELRY" coupon should also apply to their velour track suit with snowflake appliqu├ęs. One lady I remember distinctly because she glared at me with her beady eyes as she slapped her sweater down on the counter and snarled, "Well she better like it," before shoving her credit card in my face.

Yeah, Merry Christmas to you too, bitch.

It's been ten years since I endured one of my worst employment experiences, but every year my sourness grows. The stores and advertisements are chocked full of crap that are supposed to make for good gifting. There are the unnecessary gadgets (novelty booze dispensers, shaving cream warmers, a creepy robotic horse from Target) and gifts sets (everything from picture frames to skin care to scarves) that will inevitably be gathering dust in a few months time and are destined for a trip to the trash or the yard sale table by summer. Then there are the perishable gifts like mixer sets that make cough-syrupy cocktails or the fancy bottles full of pickled, brightly colored vegetables (Who eats those?) that are soon banished to some far away corner of the pantry.

The Christmas shopping experience itself can vary from mildly exhausting to maddening. Living in the RVA, one has to only drive west down Broad Street until you hit the Ninth Level of Hell, otherwise known as Short Pump to see how unpleasant our rampant commercialism has become. The traffic alone on this corridor, beginning at Innsbrook, is enough to give me a mild nervous breakdown.

Don't misconstrue; I love Christmas, especially Christmas music, and love my son's growing excitement for the season. Which is why for the past few years I've been trying to slowly move myself and my family into celebrating Christmas in a more simplified, less consumption-based manner. It's not something I can do overnight, and I certainly don't want to give up on gift-giving all together. I just want to celebrate in a more mindful manner.

I seriously doubt Christ came into this world so we could get RC cars, and iPods, and FINE *FUCKING* JEWELRY.

Anyway, I've been doing some reading (Hundred Dollar Holiday, I highly recommend.) and surfing (I love the Mennonites; I think I should switch teams.) on the subject of a simplified Christmas and want to share some of what I've learned in a couple of posts over the next week. I'll be focusing on three ways to pare down on the Christmas insanity:
1. Buy local
2. Buy handmade
3. Get crafty

If you, my devoted readers, have artist or shop owner friends you'd like to promote or just know some great gift giving alternatives, send me info (URL, address, etc.) and I'll add it to a sidebar for the season. Also, got any crafty ideas or recipes to share, I'd love those as well.

Come, join my band of merry, if slightly sour, mischief makers and shake this season up a little.

Don't go to the mall. I dare you.


Alex the Odd said...

I hear ya, I used to work in a video game store (in a seriously expensive part of London) and the Christmas shopping season was a full on nightmare. Oh God, the pain.

I made one attempt at Christmas shopping so far this year: I ended up buying three dresses for myself and lots and lots of hair product... not exactly a success.

I do however have a friend who makes jewellery so I've commissioned her to make some individual pieces for several of my best friends. It's win-win, extra business for her and I don't have to shop. Hooray!

JamieSmitten said...

I'm in total agreement -- except I will be going to the mall exactly once as I have a Short Pump gift card and need the money for presents! However, I will only be purchasing actually USEFUL gifts....

Evie said...

I have friends (though Warren) who practice their faith as Mennonites. It is amazing.
Of course now I feel bad for requesting Apple gift cards from my family so I can buy my ipod nano.
Did buy a lot of handmade items this weekend at the craft show that will be Christmas gifts!
AND Jeff and I are handmaking one gift we are giving his Christmas.

I can still get my little man a little something for the holiday, right?

Ranylt said...

Damn, 'Bama. You just scooped next week's Pajiba Afternoon Comment Diversion. Sorta kinda.

Save some of your vitriol for then, everyone.

Thalia said...

I have a friend who lives in London, Ontario, and since she gave me a bunch of her cards in the hopes that I could help her promote her own business, I'm going to type up her card in the hopes that you'll post it on your sidebar (sorry, I couldn't find your e-mail address listed, so you can delete this post if you want):
MoonDragon Art and Photography

"specializing in commissioned fine artworks, photography, and natural jewelry"

"Holly Cusing"


Vermillion said...

You just do like I do, and just don't buy gifts. Don't expect them either. Just go to folks' homes, eat their food, hug them, then skedaddle.

It kinda helps if you engender a reputation for being broke more often than not. They can't expect what they know you can't buy.

That way, I can wait until January and waste my hard-earned tuition refund on crap for myself that I would normally waste on someone else. Now that is win-win. Well, more like win-don't give a crap.

harleymom said...

I tried to go to a craft store and it was just as crazy as going to the Gap.

I made a lot of my gifts this year (I knit) and only bought a couple of things. It has been kind of fun.

My favorite place to buy crafty things is Anyone who can make something can post it on esty for sale.

girl with curious hair said...

When I was feeling Grinchy, this is EXACTLY what I was referring to. So thank you for saying it better. Since then I have realized I'm hardly a Grinch at all. I just hate tacky gifts given by desperate people with no creativity in the name of Christmas. (And seriously, what's with those hideous sweaters?)

I think I already sent you this link, so forgive the repeat:

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