Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Christmas in a Handbasket

I am shocked and horrified that it is December already. I think it really hit me the couple of times I've seen references to advent calendars in the last few days. I don't know the religious significance of this advent thing, but I remember the advent calendars I had each year as a kid and the pleasure of opening a little window to get a chocolate. My advent calendars always had chocolate in them, and I don't think I ever actually managed the self-control to only open one each day.

Mostly I'm feeling pretty bah humbug. It started with the Santa Claus parade. But then I figured well we don't have to do that with Swee'pea. Until I saw a friend as we accidentally walked past the parade and she said, "Oh enjoy your freedom to just go to the library now. In a few years you'll be stuck in our position freezing your feet off wondering where the fuck is Santa?" Like we won't have a choice because Swee'pea must see the parade.

Last weekend we saw another friend and her family on their way to see the lighting of the lights downtown and to get her kids' pictures taken with Santa. Just that day I think I'd said to Sugar Daddy that perhaps we should make sure to get Swee'pea's photo taken with Santa because most kids I know get scared of the strange bearded man in the red suit for a few years after their first year. But we hadn't known about the lighting of the lights thing and Santa.

The other night there was a story on the news about all the letters kids are sending to Santa with their wish lists. And how kids have to have them in the mail by Dec. 18 or Santa won't get them in time. And it kinda disgusted me, thinking about all these kids listing item after item that they want for Christmas. One item is fine, but a long list is just kinda gross (well it's gross if all their wishes are for things).

It made me wonder, where is the law that says you must get your child's photo taken with Santa? Maybe I just want to postpone all this Santa crap until he gets it from school and we can't avoid it. I still don't know whether we'll get Swee'pea's photo taken with Santa. Sugar Daddy called me Ebeneezer last night when I voiced some of my concerns and scrooginess. Maybe I'm just taking it all way too seriously. And really, we're probably the rubberest most malleable parents alive and will likely totally spoil Swee'pea and give him whatever his little heart desires.

I am utterly unprepared for the holiday season. We will likely get some toys for Swee'pea for Christmas, but I think we'll probably get small ones that we can save for the upcoming plane ride to entertain him. Ack! Our trip is less than six weeks away, another reason I really haven't been doing much for Christmas.

Don't get me wrong, there are parts of this season that I love. I love getting together with my family and eating a big feast. My brother and sister are amazing people and I enjoy catching up with them and their kids. Thanks to my brother and his wife, Christmas has become even more enjoyable over the last several years with a new tradition that doesn't involve running around malls and shops at the last minute pulling your hair out trying to think of the perfect gift for the adults in the family. It started out that we'd draw names from a hat, and just give a gift to that one person with a budget of $50. But last year we did something even more radical. We each gave our $50 to the Foster Parents Plan (an organization my parents have been involved with since I was a kid) and picked out what we'd like to give a village or a family in need. I really like this tradition. But mostly for selfish reasons. 1) It feels good to do something for someone who really needs some help. 2) It keeps us from getting yet more stuff to fill our house because we take care of that just fine. 3) It keeps marathon shopping trips in the frenzied holiday shopping world to a minimum.

Sugar Daddy and I don't give to charities nearly as much as we intend to or would like to because we're lazy procrastinators; that's just about the stupidest, worst reason I can think of for not giving more. I never get around to giving very much to the food banks despite the fact that someone in our family regularly makes use of this sadly much-needed service.

Last June a woman gave a presentation at my mother-in-law's church about the organization she's started called Help Lesotho (pronounced Lesutu). Lesotho is the tiny mountainous country entirely surrounded by South Africa and it has the third highest AIDS infection rate in the world. Because it's in the mountains, winters are bitterly cold and most of the people who live there are terribly impoverished. Ever since we went to the presentation we've been meaning to sponsor a child in Lesotho. But we still haven't gotten around to it. We're planning to make a donation this Christmas, as well as the donation with my family to Foster Parents Plan. Now we'll just wait and see if we actually make it happen.

On a similar vein, I really like the idea Jen shared about making your child divide his or her allowance between three jars: spend, save and share. I think this is something I really want to do with Swee'pea and maybe if we do, I can feel less bad about the commercialism we'll inevitably indulge in him.

Mad Hatter has asked us to write about what we do for social justice. I'm not very clear on the definition of social justice, despite Jen's suggestion that it means "working towards the realization of a world where all members of a society, regardless of background, have basic human rights and an equal opportunity to access the benefits of their society."

Or maybe I'm clear on it but the truth is I do very little. I have lots of causes I rant about from time to time, like gardening with plants native to your own area to reduce water usage and enhance biodiversity, and wanting to knock on the windows of idling vehicles and tell people to turn their fucking car off, and gender stuff. But none of that is really working towards ensuring basic human rights and equal opportunity.

It's just occurred to me that perhaps some of Christmas activities count a little bit? We also try to only shop downtown at our local independent toy store, and not support nasty corporate monsters like Walmart. We also use a local independent internet provider. So maybe I can join in the fun?

Despite are past laziness paving the road to hell, those posts have got me thinking and eager to make good on some of our intentions. And I'm really looking forward to learning more about what others are doing for social justice.


Mad said...

Damn straight you can join in the fun. I'd marry you in a heartbeat, Sin. Part of the reason I am doing this whole gimmick ('er, I mean life-time commitment and marriage of the minds) is because I too am a lazy procrastinator. I want to do more but the days just slip past, right?

I am using this week to think seriously about what my priorities are for social change and to make plans for enacting them. Some of those plans will not involve action but rather awareness--my own awareness.

I like your approach re adopting a child in Lesthoso. One of the causes I plan to write about later in the week is AIDS/HIV in Africa.

As for the whole commercialization of Christmas, I'm with you. Miss M is just starting to understand the societal Christmas tropes this year and my husband and I are trying to figure out ways to indulge in the magic while still fostering a sense of the spirit of the holiday. I am not religious but I was raised Christian and my husband is still a practising Catholic. I do want my daughter to have a strong sense of the birth/love/sacrifice metaphor that Christmas embodies.

On that note, I apologize for not commenting on yesterday's post but I didn't get to it until after 1 am b/c I chose instead to make shortbread for friends and family. I was a great post, though.

Mad said...

Oooops. In that last sentence, I meant IT was a great post. Sure, I'm sometimes a great post if'n you count being stupid as a post.

cinnamon gurl said...

Thanks. BTW, just because I post something new doesn't mean you can't comment on an older post... it's all good!

Beck said...

Advent is the season of waiting for Christmas. For non-religious houses, it is the season of those chocolate calendars.
I've found so much joy in celebrating things with my kids - maybe not in the way society expects us to (we don't take our kids to the mall Santa), but in a way that resonates with us. Making childhood magic for my kids just thrills me.

ewe are here said...

I admit, it hasn't even occurred to me to have my 19 month old sit in some strange Santa's lap for a photo op. Just not there yet, neither one of us.

I like your plan to donate to Foster Parents Plan. I, too, don't have 'a cause' to change the world, per se. I just rant on occasion about various injustices and things in the world that I think need to be changed, desperately. So I'm still pondering what, if anything, I really know anything about to write about right now.

Nice post.

Mad said...

Ya I know, but my thinking and comment writing time was sucked up trying to push little snow man heads out of cookie cutters.

Aliki2006 said...

My son is six and has never had his pic taken with a mall Santa...ditto our daughter. Not that having your picture taken with Santa is a BAD thing, but I never liked the whole mall Santa part of things. It's very difficult to explain away the mall Santa to kids and I have always thought the presence of the mall Santa takes away from the magic and mystery of Christmas.

I have been aware for the past couple years now that we need to do more in terms of social justice/change around the holidays at our house. I like your suggestion quite a lot.

What a great post, by the way.

Julie Pippert said...

Yes, yes and yes.

And GL in the coming years!

I say that lovingly. Honestly.


N. said...

I'm another mother who doesn't do the mall Santa. Hell, we don't even do the mall. Oh the joys of small town living! Last month we did a nightmarish marathon Walmart trip (first time in 18 mos) and I still feel unclean. Like you, we try to support local independent stores - capitalistic guerilla warefare! Tak that commercialism!

Will you explain the whole Santa myth to Swee'pea? I can't do it without feeling like a complete and total ass. Still my 2 younglings have picked it up via pop culture, friends and other sources. But I just can't get on board. No cookies and milk or letters to the big guy. For us it the season is about family, friends, and good food.

cinnamon gurl said...

Alpha, I don't know. We're going to have to think about it... Everyone's comments have helped me think this through. Thanks.

Girlplustwo said...

I keep meaning to come back and say that I am now prompted to adopt a child...thank you for the nudge.

got champagne all ready for you on sunday, sister.

Anonymous said...

For my family members, I bought goats for families in Rwanda through Foster Parents plan. I also donated money to Operation Eyesight which helps to restore sight to people in India. I do this to honor my mother who is going blind. I think we can make a difference in the world, one person at a time.

Anonymous said...

I love your christmas tradition!