Wagging Christmas

24th December,10:30am                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               I have just made a decision.  I’m not going to participate in Christmas this year.

I’m not a Christian and I don’t agree with obliged present-giving or forced merriness. I don’t see why I should pretend to care that it’s Jesus Christ’s birthday, and use it as an excuse to spend extra money that I don’t have on things that nobody really needs, and eat too much food that I don’t really enjoy, just because everyone else is.  I haven’t done any Christmas shopping yet, nor do I plan to do any. What a relief.  It’s simple. I don’t believe in Christmas, so I’m not going to celebrate it.

11:15am The more I think about it, the angrier I feel about the Christmases when I have been sucked-in to all that ridiculous last minute preparation. Desperately filling the fridge, buying last-minute unsuitable presents, menu-planning, worrying about having enough supplies.  And then there are the contingency plans based on the weather, or how many people end up coming.  For Goodness sake!  It’s not an air raid or a cyclone about to hit… It’s just another public holiday!

But there’s more to it than just the way Christmas makes people behave irrationally.  It’s the sneaky marketing and pressure that is deliberately put on consumers to out-do one another. Is it just me and my cynical outlook, or has Christmas become a competition about who wants to look like they care the most? Since when is love, compassion, generosity and appreciation for one another measured by how much money you can spend on presents or by how much effort you can put into creating extravagant meals? I think about all the Christmases where I have been made to feel inadequate and guilty for not making as much effort for my friends and family as they had done for me.  The fact that Christmas can be used as a marketing tool to make people feel “slack” or “stingey”, or even “ungrateful” for not spending as much money on crap as everyone else is, is wrong.  And the fact that marketers know this and do it on purpose, is evil.

I have spent all year preaching my anti-consumerist sentiment and criticizing greedy, ruthless, corporate behavior. I am NOT going to let my guard down now and let them trick me into participating in the biggest, most wasteful, consumer orgy of the year!

1:30pm I just called my Mum to tell her I would not be going to Christmas lunch tomorrow at my sister’s place. She wanted to know what my plans were instead.  When I told her I was protesting and planned to spend the day at home, she laughed at me, and told me who else would be going and the lovely time I would be missing out on.  I had a momentary vision of myself as a crazy, lone demonstrator, wearing a sandwich board and opening a ring-pull can of sardines to the sound of self-indulgent laughter, champagne corks and Christmas crackers and the smell of grilling meat.

Oh no you don’t… I can see what’s happening, and I’m not going to be a sucker for family peer-pressure!  They can laugh, but I will not be a hypocrite! I have integrity, and I intend to stand up to what I don’t believe in.

1:45pm I’ve been thinking that in the interests of maintaining my dignity, I will keep a low profile over the next couple of days.  That means no Facebook, and I intend to turn off my phone after I call my sister to let her know that I won’t be going to her Christmas lunch tomorrow. This will help me to avoid awkward Christmassy seasons greeting with friends, and stop me from making self-righteous little speeches and announcements.  I will simply put Christmas out of my mind altogether and carry on as if it is any other quiet Sunday.  If people in the street wish me a Happy Christmas, I will smile and say “I don’t celebrate Christmas, but thank you”.

2:15pm I’m planning to call my sister soon to tell her I won’t be coming.

3:30pm Still working up the courage to call my sister.

 5:45pm I just called my sister and told her. She was fine about my decision, and laid no guilt-trips on me whatsoever.  If anything, I felt like I was laying a guilt-trip on her.  I suspect she secretly wishes she could do the same.

9:30pm Ok, phone is switched off, and that’s all the communication I’m going to do until people get over their Christmas fever.  I will confess though, I did go on Facebook very briefly this evening, but only to share a link to the Zeitgeist Moving Forward movie, as a subtle hint in favour of my protest .  I’ve spent more energy on Christmas than it deserves already, so that’s all I’m going to say on this topic for now.

25th December, 10:15am It’s a gloriously sunny day with a fresh breeze.  Perfect for doing my washing.  Housemates have all gone elsewhere for the day, whole house to myself, phone switched off… Bliss!!

12:15am I’ve had a productive morning painting, doing my washing, and sun-baking.  Might cook myself a nice lunch of lentil stew with rice…mmm

1:15pm I just went for a walk and saw a fat kid, already drunk on too much sugar, waddle out of his front door, only to trip and fall down the steps with his hand in a box of Cheezles.  Very quiet out there today, apart from a couple of stressed-looking people unloading eskys and bags of ice out of the boots of their cars. Suckers.

3:00pm My brother just called in on his way to my sister’s place. He looked very unimpressed and unsurprised by my protest. I suspect he was thinking that this is just another one of my excuses for a no-show at a family get-together.

5:35pm I just finished listening to Zeitgeist Moving Forward as I paint. I went for another walk earlier. It’s a very spooky atmosphere out there today with everyone hiding away in their bomb shelters. The only audible sounds of life are drunken and oblivious, muffled behind brick walls, stereo speakers and backyard fences.  I feel like I am the only one who really knows what’s going on.  It’s eery.

I saw a Santa walking down the middle of the road earlier this afternoon, wearing dark sunglasses and carrying a long umbrella under one arm.  There isn’t a cloud in the sky today, and it’s hot.  Far too hot to be wearing a full length, fleecy red suit in the sun.  It suddenly occurred to me that this Santa could easily be hiding a fire arm inside that umbrella…

I was back on Facebook again this afternoon just briefly.  Long enough to share another YouTube video with John Lennon singing “So This Is Christmas” over shocking footage of people in war zones, maimed in hospitals, and laying out corpses.  Most of the corpses are infant sized.  Lots of close-ups of grief-stricken faces.  The usual cliché, but it felt good.  My friend John commented on the link I put up yesterday, warning me to watch out for that Zeitgeist crowd, and wishing me a merry Christmas (Bless him).  Bad Boy Donald put his status as “Merry kiss ma ass!” (Love it).

7:15pm My housemates have returned home sunburnt and exhausted, while I’m feeling quite sprightly and cheerful.  Ha ha, they are both tucking into my lentil stew and comparing stories about packed trains, misbehaved toddlers, boring bus rides and embarrassing comments they made.  My painting is coming along quite nicely.

26th December, 12:15am                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Well, I made it through another one, and now we have Boxing Day hangovers and New Year’s Eve to look forward to. With my Inkling challenge successfully completed, I feel now I can rightfully take off this morally superior straightjacket, and go back to being my normal, obnoxious, careless self.   Hey, where’s that champagne?  Here’s to Christmas being over for another year!  And thanks for the soap nuts, and the Kindle, and the lychees and dark chocolate macadamias! And loving the ergonomic meditation stool!  And sucked in that I didn’t get you anything!  Hahahahaha!!!

26th December 3:30pm There I was feeling all cocky about getting away with wagging Christmas and getting an Inkling Challenge under my belt, only to have my challenge refused by The Inkling for not being challenging enough!!  What?!!  I don’t know anyone else who has the guts to protest against Christmas! I thought it was a pretty cool and original challenge. But no.  Apparently just doing something that I wanted to do anyway, and using the challenge part as an excuse to get away with it is not a valid challenge…  Doh! The Inkling did, however like my idea and thought it was entertaining enough to publish, but I needed to add an after thought.  How can I make my challenge, or the original idea more challenging?

28th December 4:22pm I’ve been sitting here licking my wounds and thinking about how to salvage something from my failed challenge.  A real challenge for me would be to make Christmas a beneficial, enjoyable experience, which celebrates all the original good-will that Christmas intended, without over-indulgence, insincerity or waste.  I was talking about this with my sister yesterday.  We were remembering how special Christmas was to us when we were kids because it was the one day of the year that we were “allowed” to eat lollies and chocolate and get non-essential “presents” of things that we were meant to enjoy!  Not just boring things like school shoes, or other things that we needed for school.  Christmas was the one day of the year that we actually did get spoilt!

Today though, there’s nothing very “special” about eating junk food or getting useless novelty gadgets.  For most Australian children, and adults, these things are regular weekly, or even daily activities!  The only thing that makes Christmas Day any different, is that we are encouraged to do so much more of what we normally do, to kid ourselves into feeling like it’s a special occasion.  But really, there’s nothing very special about doing more of the same thing.

Maybe I could begin some new Christmas Day activities that really are special, because nobody ever does them at any other time of the year. And preferably these new Christmas Day traditions would be low consumption, fun and encourage togetherness and sharing.

The first part of the challenge would be to come up with ideas for new Christmas Day Traditions.  The second part would be to actually practice them myself, and encourage my family to participate with me.  If those two steps can be completed successfully, then I can try the real challenge of encouraging others to do the same and reinventing Christmas back into the special, fun day it was supposed to be.

I’m prepared to count my failed wagging Christmas challenge as a temporary set back, but not a complete flop.  So stay tuned for the come back!

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