Time to rid yourself of Christmas guilt – 2010 Edition


The current economic climate has brought about the perfect time to reassess what Christmas is about.  I recently read this posting that I wrote almost 2 years ago.  I decided that now is a good time to republish it.  The following has been edited and updated for this year but the message is the same.  I even fixed some misspellings, and rewrote some poorly constructed sentences.  I hope this post gives you something to think about.

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Christmas means different things to different people.  At its core, Christmas commemorates the birth of Christ.   It is a Christian holiday.  I  believe that unless you are devout in your celebration of this birth then you have no business celebrating Christmas.  Otherwise it’s no different than celebrating Hanukkah.  You may as well.  You’re guaranteed eight gifts that way.

I have not forgotten the magic that Christmas can bring, but from where does that magic come.  We are often more prone to charitable gifts during Christmas.  So to some less fortunate child, or family, a Christmas miracle could be one toy, or one meal.

Many of us get emotional during the holidays, mostly due to the memories of our childhood.  Some never had a Christmas. Some never had a happy Christmas.  I”m not sure which is worse; never having one, or never having one that lives up to the hype.

A few years ago, I had my own economic downturn.  Giving gifts that year wasn’t within the realm of possibility.  Yes, I could have given home-made gifts.  But, I would have felt inadequate and guilt that comes from NOT giving.

So I decided to take a different approach.  No Christmas presents?  I approached the people with whom I normally exchange gifts and told each one  the truth (do people tell the truth anymore? – I’m used to it, but I find that many struggle with it).  I told them I can’t afford to buy presents and I would appreciate it they didn’t buy me a present either.  I can’t pretend I have the money to do it, and if I spend money on gifts, I won’t have money for Rent, or Food, or to put gas in my car.  And I don’t want to feel the guilt of getting a gift when I don’t have one to give.  I don’t believe that my “plan” was received very well, but I had no choice but to move forward with it.

The most important gift in the world, in my opinion, is your time.  I wanted to spend time with the people I love.  Laughing, relaxing, telling stories, playing cards; all of those things that we rarely have time for.  Since most of my friends and family aren’t consistent church-goers, we weren’t celebrating the birth of the Messiah. No, in previous years we weren’t celebrating anything, and giving each other mounds of presents because of it.

In as little as one day after opening gifts, maybe less in some cases, most kids can’t remember who gave them what.  They were already bored with the toys, and the adults usually think “thank god that’s over”.   How sad is that.  Such a build-up and in a flash, it’s over.  Some are happy it’s over.  Some are disappointed that they didn’t “get what they wanted”.

In recent years many of the people I know were ready to take down the tree and decorations by the evening of Christmas Day.  And as we reflected on Christmas, we realized introspectively that we spent too much, probably went into credit card debt, and even if you got great stuff, something was missing.

After the time when I stopped giving out Christmas presents I didn’t feel that way anymore.  Christmas had taken on a different meaning.  As I said before, the gift of time, and laughter, I think, are such valuable commodities.  What an incredible relief it would be, don’t you think, if you never had to worry about the traditional gift giving aspect of Christmas?  I know people who say that they truly like the chaos of shopping for Christmas gifts.  I think they are lying to themselves.  I think they are trying to recreate a fantasy that is unattainable.   The magic of the perfect childlike Christmas is unattainable.

To me, it’s not that gifts shouldn’t be exchanged anymore, just not gifts that come with a receipt.  I have always believed that birthdays are special.  That is one person’s special day and that should be the day they get all the attention and a gift or two.  And I also believe in buying people things that you happen upon and give for no specific reason.  I bought a family member a certain gift,  just because I knew they liked it, not because it was their birthday or Christmas or any other holiday.  Those, to me, are real gifts.  The unexpected act of kindness.  But giving wrapped gifts is NOT necessary at Christmas.

So I am asking you to participate in a new kind of gift giving for the holidays.   Stay out of the stores and off the online shopping sites.  Make a promise to yourself, and to those you love, to spend time with them during the Holidays.  Why do we keep perpetuating the myth that a “present” equals “love”.  And if you decide to spend more time with the ones you love playing cards, relaxing, enjoying food,  and most of all laughing, then maybe you will begin to see what is really important.  You will be able to see it because your mind will not be consumed with guilt over whether or not you spent enough money on so-and-so, and “oh I hope he likes it, I don’t think he’ll like it” or “maybe I should get her something else, or something more”.  Rid yourself of that Christmas guilt and put your energy into memorable, intangible, important things.

We need to stop buying into Corporate America’s idea of Christmas;  the kind of Christmas that makes Corporate America rich.  They wait all year for Christmas because it makes up something like 60 or 70 percent of their profits for the year.  And you wouldn’t believe how they try to get into your head, and your heart, so that they can get into your wallet.  Stop the insanity.

If you believe in God, then you should know that God doesn’t keep track of the presents you give;  God only cares about gifts you give that can’t be wrapped.  If you don’t believe in God (nobody says you have to – I don’t) then all of this should make perfect sense to you already.

I welcome your comments.

December ’09 is a slow news month


We seem to by in a news cycle where there is a lot going on, yet none of it is important enough to write about.  And so the bloggers, and the main stream media, begin to fill up the pages and the TV screen with something that can only be called “stuff”.

Does anyone really care about Tiger Woods personal problems?  I don’t.  And neither should you.  All of the wasted file server space used up by people writing articles and opinions about who Tiger slept with or had an affair with; it’s a crying shame.  Who cares?  Let him live his life and handle his problems on his own,  just like the rest of us.

Amanda Knox, did she, didn’t she.  Who cares???  Her family, yes, and friends, of course, but the rest of us have no say in the matter and will never know the truth.  I don’t care if the Italian court works like the American system.  I don’t care if Italians are prejudicial in their court judgements against outsiders; because I don’t plan on going to Italy to kill anyone.  Who the hell cares?  It’s just another murder trial.

Obama took a while to decide what to do about Afghanistan.  He did what any smart person should do – think long and hard about his options and then make a decision and stick to it.  Done.  Do we need to debate it to fill air time?  I don’t think so.

And even I am guilty.  I just wasted how much electricity, and file server space, to write this post about how there truly is nothing to write about that isn’t already being said, or thought.  I’m glad I don’t own a cable news network.  I’m glad I don’t have to fill 24 hours each and every day with noise, so that the advertisers have some place to show their products.

Here’s what I think is going on in the world that we should be thinking about:  We all have friends, and/or family, who are hurting, and to some degree, suffering.  Maybe it’s the kind of hurt caused by personal crisis:  sickness, abusive relationships, or love that seems to be dying.  Maybe it’s the kind of hurt that is financial: mothers and fathers who can’t feed their kids, or people wondering how they will avoid eviction or foreclosure.

We should be writing about, and watching TV that deals with, taking care of each other.   Random acts of kindness are under-rated.  Whether it’s holding the door for someone or helping a woman in the parking lot clean the snow off her car.  Now we’re talking about stuff that matters.  Lend an ear, lend a hand, lend a dollar.  Listen to what people around you are saying.  Some of them have a difficult time asking for help.  But if you really listen, and watch, it’s not hard to figure out what someone needs.  It might just be a hug, as corny as that sounds.  What if a big, smothering, maternal or paternal hug is all someone needs today.  What will that cost you.  Or maybe it’s money, or food, or a ride, or a job.  Just do it.  And do it thanklessly.  You shouldn’t do it for recognition, or glory, you should do it because you are human.

I’m not saying all of this simply because it is the holiday season.  As far as I am concerned, even Christmas is not worthy of writing about.  Unless someday (in my wildest dreams) Christmas is no longer about buying presents and instead is about helping each other.   Unless Christmas is no longer about gifts for the sake of buying gifts, then Christmas is not worth wasting more space on a file server somewhere; and it’s not worth filling up the airwaves.

Why don’t we all take this opportunity to take advantage of this “inconsequential” news month.  With the exception of families with loved ones overseas fighting in wars that we shouldn’t be fighting, everyone else should start to make a list, and check it twice.  And on that list should be thank you’s, and donations, and meals you made for someone who can’t get out of the house, and packages for troops, and treats for your dog, and all of the things about which writing words on a page are worthy.

How to survive the holidays


I haven’t written anything on this blog in ten days.  I haven’t really been focused on politics, current events, or pop culture.  While I no longer participate in exchanging gifts, I have been concentrating on the holidays.  They are an especially difficult time for me and each year I try to survive them the best I can.  Christmas is a very emotional time for many.  I believe it stems from looking at your Christmas tree late at night with just the tree lights on in a quiet room.  How can you not think about Christmas past.  Yes, there were good times, but bad memories are easier to conjure up in your mind.  There will always be the gift you didn’t get when you were a kid.  The one gift you wanted so desperately.  There will always be memories of what was going on in your life during a particular holiday season.  There will always be people missing from your life that were there during one Christmas, but are no longer. 

I would like to dedicate this posting to my friend Sarah.  In addition to her insight, she has been a kind ear to listen to my pinings.  She is a soft place to land as I feel the harshness of disappointment and lost love.  I must say that this Christmas is better than I remember Christmas being for a long time.  This year I have so much to be thankful for and luckily, didn’t forget it this year.

It wasn’t perfect, and it wasn’t tear free.  But I enjoyed the holidays this year because I felt more like myself, more inner peace, than I have in years.  I have talked with a few people who know me well and I talked to Sarah who doesn’t know me all that well.  Her interest in other people’s stories opened the door for me to tell my story  to her.

To me the Christmas season should be about giving thanks, just as much as Thanksgiving is.  I am hopeful that since sales were down this year, some people have learned that you can celebrate and be happy at Christmas time with less “stuff”.  They may have sweated and toiled over what to buy and how to buy with less money, but in the end maybe they realized that Chirstmas spirit has nothing to do with “stuff”.  It has to do with the people you love, being there for them, and them for you.

So next year, maybe the world will spend even less, regardless of the economic conditions.  You can’t put a price on kindness.  I’d also like to thank my family for welcoming me back into the fold this year.  The last 2 years have been very diffucult times and I wasn’t the same person during that time.  Many didin’t recognize me at all.  But luckily family always foregives, if it works out right, and this year it did.

Thanks again, Sarah, my jewish friend who helped this gentile make it through a difficult time.  My Christmas wish to everyone is that they have someone to share their successes and failures, their pain and joy; a soft place to land, all without judgement from anybody. 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

All Christmas Shoppers have Blood on their hands


You’ve heard the stories.  Three people were actually trampled to death, killed, murdered in the doorway of a mall or big box store on Black Friday.  One pregnant woman made it out alive but when all was said and done, she could not say the same for her yet unborn child. 

I know you saw this on this news.  I am sure you watched in horror as it was read to you while the video of throngs of manic Christmas shoppers played in the background.

As far as I’m concerned – each and every one of you “Christmas Shoppers” is responsible for these deaths.  Do you think that because it didn’t happen where you were shopping, or in the crowd in which you stood, that you are innocent.  You are not. 

You have all fed the fires of Christmas shopping hell by demanding and participating in Black Friday “deals”.  These so called deals, in many cases, have been marked up, only to be marked back down to something reasonable, all in the name of Christmas; all in the name of squealing, stampeding shoppers who did everything from punch each other out, to actually shoot each other with handguns, inside a store, to get a DVD player. 

Store clerks were mowed down while trying to help customers escape the melee. 

It is my opinion that you should all be ashamed of yourselves for allowing these things to happen.  None of you deserve a happy Christmas.  You have turned this sacred holiday into a pagan ritual fueled by greed, and guilt, and gluttony and I find it disgusting, immoral, and unforgivable.

Christmas is a holiday (once pronounced “holy day”) to celebrate the birth of the Messiah, a Christian being who is believed to have come to save the world from its own sins.  If you are not celebrating that specific idea, then why the hell are you at Best Buy, elbowing strangers to get a flat screen TV.

You were born and raised in the most greedy, self-centered period in American history.  And because you didn’t get what you wanted for Christmas when you were six years old, you are now trying to make up for it by piling on the presents to your own children.  You are perpetuating the myth that Santa Claus exists and that more presents equals more love.

It’s time to GET A GRIP.  When is it enough?  When people are dying because of this ridiculousness?  Well, now they are dying.  But are you ready yet to give up this nonsense and give to each other what really matters:  human kindness, affection, your time, and gestures of real love that don’t involve price tags.

What really gets to me is the Pro life crowd who wants to protect the lives of the unborn, all in the name of God.  But when a woman loses her child as she is trampled by Christmas shoppers, these same people are too busy to notice or care, and are fighting over the newest and coolest cell phone to give their twelve year old for Christmas.

How about this year for Christmas, instead of watching the news with feigned horror that someone died being trampled at a shopping mall, you go somewhere to simply help someone else pick themselves up instead of pushing them out of the way.  That, my friends, is a real Christmas gift.

Christmas Eve 2007


I hope I can look back on this post in a month, or at most a year, and be thankful that as bad as things were, things change and I can persevere.

These are the darkest days of my life.  Since I started working part time at age 16 and then started my career mostly in office settings after that, I have never gone a week without a paycheck, without an income.  As a single man with no children who rents an apartments, I tried to add up all of the money I have paid in taxes, with no write-offs, over the years.  It became overwhelmingly impossible to calculate.  But I know it is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Due to circumstances this year I lost my job, collected unemployment until that ran out and now have no income.  I had to apply for general assistance from the town to help me with rent, I got food stamps, and because I have no health care, I have now applied for help with that as well.  I never expected a hand out in my whole life, but, well, there it is.  You do what you have to do to survive.  What happened to all the money I paid into the system and why isn’t it available to me now that I really need it.

Surviving.  That is all I am doing right now.  I am not living.  Christmas Eve is here and that usually brings me some sense of inner peace on a spiritual level.  I don’t care about presents.  I don’t give or receive them.  I just don’t believe in that.  Christmas, to me, is a celebration of life, and the birth of a Messiah for the Christians.  To me, if you don’t celebrate that, you have no business celebrating Christmas.  The holiday has lost so much meaning.  And today, I am too empty to accept into my heart, the spirit that Christmas usually brings to me.  I am sad and empty and I don’t feel strong enough to be around people, even the ones whom I know love me, and fake being cheerful.  I wear my heart of my sleeve, that’s just me.  So I don’t want to be around people.  They deserve to enjoy their Christmas spirit with their friends and family without someone like me around to bring them down.  My family does do presents, but luckily they don’t put too much emphasis on it anymore.  That brings me some sense of accomplishment because I have had this conversation from time to time with some of them.  And I hope that I have contributed to them re-thinking Christmas; all the presents, all the excessive amount of presents and the excessive dollars spent on them.  I hope they have started to understand that Christmas is about so much more than that.

So my Christmas wish this year is so simple.  I wish to survive it.  I know that by Wednesday, December 26, 2007, none of it will matter anymore.  Most people won’t remember what they got for gifts, or who gave it to them and in many cases the Christmas tree will be down before the day is out.  Then it’s on to New Years Eve and for me the reminder that I am alone, still, and again.

This is a maudlin, melodramatic post but I need to get my feelings out and writing seems to be the only way I can do that.  I know there are those that will understand how I feel and some will not understand what I have to say.  For those who understand, please know that you are not alone in how you feel and maybe in some way that unites us.  For those who disagree, I am truly happy that you are happy and can enjoy your Christmas times with those that you love.  I hope you feel a sense of peace and love around you.  I, too, hope to feel that way again.