22 November 2010

Happy (New) Holiday Seaon!

Greetings All,

I'm sorry for the lateness of this entry but I intentionally wanted to go out and fulfill my day of errands before posting, to get some perspective on my thoughts about this holiday season. All around us people hurried about--some more frantic than others--getting their last minute preparations for Thanksgiving dinner together. Many tried to avert their eyes from the early Christmas displays that used to go up on Black Friday when I was young but have been up since Novemeber 1st the last few years trying to force holiday cheer during a recession. I think it actually worked this time around.

The anxiety I saw last year and the year before has fallen off, but fortunately it hasn't been replaced with the mindless consumption of five years ago. People averted their eyes, buying what they'd budgeted for and placed on their lists. Others slowed down, looked at prices, made notes and walked off with a smile. Everyone had the air about them that Christmas was definitely coming this year, but in a shape and form that fit into their new lives, this new economy and hopefully a new outlook on consumption and living within our means that the country--nay the globe--will not soon forget. It was a great atmosphere to move about in.

I know that the holidays will still be hard on some of us. My own home is still suffering a double lay-off and congress voted against UI extention benefits before the Thanksgiving recess. We're left hanging on knowing what's ahead for us until November 30th and if the new vote goes the same way, ourselves and 20 million other Americans will be affected. Still, we're better off than many and you could see that mentality, that understanding prevelant in the small crowds we faced today.

In our house we haven't exchanged gifts for years. We each buy one thing we want, one thing the household needs and then donate to a charity to help those completely without. It lacks the shiny, brightly wrapped anticipation of mystery packages under the tree, but it also ensures that every dime spent is on something needed and wanted without waste of time exchanging things or waste of money putting something in the closet never to be seen again. We help each other whittle down the list of things made over the year to the one we really want and the one we both really need and then put them under the tree along with the reciept for the charity donation to wait until Yule or Christmas Day, depending on the gift. Being under the tree is nostalgic because for us as adults it's not about the mystery but the feeling of the holidays. The reciept is a reminder to keep others in our thoughts and to hope that everyone has done a little something for another over the holiday season to make things that much better.

Two years ago things went as planned. Last year we did it all plus extra suprise gifts off either the individual list or household list. This year...well this year we're doing the donation first just in case with our own gifts to come later on. The financial situation has changed but the season hasn't. It's still about givng of self before the giving of things. I wish the global economy hadn't needed to collapse to remind us all of that, but since it did let's run with it as a nation.

This holiday season stay within your budget not only with what you spend but with what you don't. Go through your closets and exchange those things never worn or never used with others who really need them right now. Maybe a friend really needs that coat you never liked and still have hanging with the tag on it while you could do with some good boots this season that were a half size off for her. Buy your kids the new gadgets in your price range but take the old gadgets they never use to GoodWill or whatever organizations line up with your personal stance and make sure there's a Christmas memory for someone with less this year. For those of you in good financial balance, look around and talk with your family about whether or not you really NEED something new this year, or how much that needs to cost. Just five dollars from each family member could change the life of someone for years to come given to the right charity.

And for those of you in our situation, wondering what you're going to do, just barely getting Thankgiving together and worried about Christmas because unlike me you have children--stop worrying. I remember tough times as a child and trust me, it's never going to be about the gift when they're older but about the time spent with them while home from school during winter break. They may be young enough that they're still asking for things or old enough that they're hormonal about things, but if you raised them right they're bright enough to understand if you just tell them the situation and give them other things instead. How about a full day of your attention doing whatever they like to do that's low or no cost? Make it a holiday tradition and they'll remember it for the rest of their lives. With older children, make the tough decision of getting something small and in thanks for having a roof over your head and food on your table, you'll spend time or what other little money you've set aside doing for those who don't have those simple luxuries. Again, where not traditional, it'll be an impact that makes them the adults you want them to be.

Whether you're having a full traditional or vegetarian/vegan feast, a scaled down version or a frozen Swanson turkey dinner, Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Holiday Season! Hold to the sanity I've been seeing and pass whatever extra you have down to those a rung or more beneath you on the recovery ladder to make sure we all keep climbing upward.

Happy Holidays Ramble ~ Done!

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