Thursday, December 19, 2013

Getting over My Christmas Guilt

Last year, my sister posted to Facebook the following picture of our families’ combined Christmas presents under her tree (and all over the freaking place):

In the comments were at least three "wows" and one "holy shit."

 ...And tagged me in it. I was so embarrassed about how many presents there were that I almost untagged myself.
This year will be much more restrained.
That’s what I told myself in October.
And yet here we are, mid-December, and getting into my closet is like that scene in Entrapment where Katherine Zeta-Jones navigates the web of lasers in a skin-tight Lycra pantsuit.
We... might be one of those families that people condemn for their unrestrained consumerism.
I keep going through the kids’ lists and trying to find something that I should return (I have an excel spreadsheet. There; now you truly know me.) But I can’t pick one! I know them and I know they’ll play with and love every one of those toys to death.
The other day, I whined to my husband that I felt guilty about being materialistic. He said I shouldn’t, pointing out that we really aren’t materialistic. The only time we “spoil” our kids is at Christmas. He also pointed out that we’re still teaching our kids about the true meaning of Christmas. Our kids are not ungrateful. In our house, we talk every day about the differences in how people live around the world, how fortunate our kids are. And my husband says he wants our kids to have life-long memories of Christmas-morning unwrapping insanity.
And truthfully, I do too. I remember my sister and I having crazy Christmases growing up, wrapping paper flying, squeals of glee, afternoons spent untying dolls from their boxes. I remember the innocent, heart-palpitating bliss of believing a fat man in a red suit magically poofed his way into our living room (it’s Florida - no fireplaces) and dumped a shit-ton of toys on the couch. It was amazing, and yes, those memories are some of the favorites from my childhood.
This is probably the last Christmas Lucas will believe in Santa Claus. It kills me to think of him losing his belief in these sweet, magical legends. To prolong the magic, I even went out and bought one of those “Elf on the Shelf” dolls which Lucas promptly named “Zachary” (is that not the perfect name for an elf?). That stupid little thing has turned out to be the highlight of the kids’ day, not to mention a great way to get them out of bed in the morning!
If I can contribute to that tenuous, fleeting magic before it disappears from our lives altogether, then dammit, I’m going to do it!
So why do I still feel so guilty about that big pile of toys in my closet?
Well… to be perfectly honest, if I didn’t think anyone besides us would know about that pile of toys, I wouldn’t feel guilty at all.
No, my guilt has nothing to do with any of my personal feelings about Christmas or materialism. I’m doing that thing again, that thing where I care way too much about what other people think.
This year has been a particularly judgy one, likely in response to this new “Brown Thursday” phenomenon (which I actually think is a bit much; let us finish our Thanksgiving dessert for Pete’s sake).
Regardless of the reason, this year there seemed to be a much higher-than-usual amount of consumerism-bashing and toy-boycotting than in previous years. I read through several Facebook threads of people bragging about how they only allow their kids three items on their wish-list or how they have foregone presents altogether. Many of these people were very vocal about how disgusting it is that consumerism has gotten out of hand, that parents ought to be ashamed of themselves. Some questioned the parenting skills of those who buy their kids a lot of Christmas presents.  
Well you know what? I won’t have it! I release my guilt! In fact, I think those people up on their high horses are the ones who ought to be ashamed of themselves. I’m not judging them for having a small Christmas or trying to model the holiday after the Bible. Great! Good for you. How very Godly of you; I’m sure you now have a free pass into Heaven.
If you are one of those people, those holier-than-thou people who thinks everyone else is doing Christmas “wrong,” please do me a favor and try to refrain from criticizing how my family celebrates this holiday. It’s really none of your business what I do in the privacy of my own home, and even if it was your business to know how I celebrate this day, you don’t know how I raise my kids the other 364 days of the year, so you’re really in no place to judge!
My family is not materialistic; we just have a tradition of big Christmases. And for as long as we are able, that’s how it’s going to be. So suck it!
Okay maybe not that last thing. I got a little emotional. Sorry.
Oh and as soon as Lucas is old enough we’re going to volunteer in soup kitchens.
Wrapping paper is recyclable, right?


  1. I totally posted this comment, but it disappeared. If it's in moderation, just delete this one, so I don't look like a dumbass, okay?

    I just wanted to let you know that I don't judge you and I don't think anyone else should either. December is the month our family goes all out - with Christmas and both boys birthdays, it's the month of gifts, but also the only time they get much at all. Who cares what people think? Celebrate all the holidays the way YOU and your family want, not the way you think others want you to.

    Have a Merry Christmas!

    1. It did disappear! You are not a dumbass! LOL

      Yes I think the crux of the matter is that we are far too judgmental of one another. I applaud those who celebrate Christmas in a minimalist way. I can see the beauty in doing that. I just think we need to stop with all the raised eyebrows and finger-shaking. =)

  2. I love this post!!!! We have always had big Christmases and they are still some of my most favorite, cherished memories. And it isn't because I remember all the toys I got and loved, it was the traditions leading up to Christmas. My sister and I used to wake up around 3 am and go downstairs together and turn on the tree lights, just to see the tree and all the presents laid out...just to bask in the glow of the glory of all that it promised (I was a profound child)... but the truth is, we believed in Santa longer than most because my family was not one that had excess money. We didn't get every name brand item of clothing that was deemed "cool" and "must have" by fellow school goers- so to see the abundance of presents (which included such things as socks and underwear, thank you very much), was to see a sort of miracle. No way my parents could afford all that, it must be the doings of santa.

    And sure, maybe it was a little irresponsible of them, and I'm sure they paid the price for the remainder of the year in massive cc debt; but they knew they couldn't spoil us every day of the year, so they made our Christmases rock. ROCK.

    And guess what? I go to church, and I pray to God, and I teach my child how to pray, too...and I am still going to spoil the bajeepers out of her every Christmas morning for as long as I am able!!!


    1. Yep, I think each year my parents were probably still paying off the previous Christmas by the time it was time to start shopping for the new one! But damn they gave us some great memories of childhood glee. =)

  3. You know--that is how I imagine Christmas is for some of my friends! So I'm glad you didn't ruin the idea for me. ;)

    1. Haha! I've always wondered what it would be like to celebrate Hanukkah. It looks like fun! =)

  4. I love this article!! Thank you!

  5. Bravo. If we can spoil our kids one day of the year, it should be this one. Who gives a rat's ass what anyone else thinks. I love the looks in the kids eyes when they see all those presents. It won't last forever. The older they get, the less they will get (because everything gets more expensive) and like you said, they won't believe forever, so let them have fun with it while they do!

    1. It really is a fleeting time. You know what no one ever talks about (including me?) Kids get a ton of gifts from their parents, and for us, and most other parents who do things like we do, the parents don't get anything, or get only one or two small things. This is how I grew up. Big Christmases in my childhood didn't teach me to be an entitled adult; on the contrary, instead I learned to be a giving and selfless parent.

  6. seems to perpetuate absurd consumption. Not that I really care what you do or don't do, but it just seems so empty. I am certain your children love all of it, as you did as a child. However, some "traditions" should not be passed on for one reason or another. Maybe take your children on a fantastic vacation filled with some gifts, but filled more with the development of the value of time with those you love. Just something to chew on...have a great holiday.

    1. Sorry it took so long for me to respond to your comment; I've been too busy spending quality time with my family. As my post mentioned, my kids only get spoiled this one day of the year. As my post also mentioned, you don't know how I parent my children the other 364 days of the year. I didn't elaborate on the full extent of the charitable giving that we do because I didn't want to sound self-righteous.

      All of that being said, you have a right to your opinion, and you have a right to celebrate Christmas any way you see fit. I will not judge your way of doing things. Thanks for taking the time to comment on Christmas Eve.