Tis a Gift To Be Simple…

By now my hatred of Christmas is both well known and so ridiculously over the top as that it’s actually become kind of fun. Putting all that bluster and silliness aside for a minute I’d like to explain why it’s not a holy season for Sharon or me. Besides the fact that we’re not Christian we also don’t believe in gifting. This isn’t an evangelical post and your tradition of gift giving is fine with us. We’ve just found that going gift-less can be surprisingly difficult for people to accept. We get a lot of “but what about…” and “you still give gifts for …. don’t you” type questions. It’s cost us friends and caused rifts with family members. Since it seems to be hard to understand (and it’s clearly counter to the dominant culture) I thought I’d explain why you won’t see a box from us under your pagan tree.

The gift-free tradition slowly evolved in our lives. Our reasons are spiritual, personal, and economic. I’ll start with the philosophical. I loathe the fact that, as a society, we’ve equated things with emotions. It starts with advertising. Every kiss begins with Kay. You’d be cooler in this car or happier in these clothes. Without this toy how will your child know they’re loved? This makes me profoundly sad and I don’t want to participate in it at any level. I’m not looking for converts and I don’t apply this standard to anyone else but I personally want to do everything in my power to separate commerce from caring. Sharon is a little more flexible but it’s central to the core of our spiritual beliefs.

On a more personal level we both just kind of hate gifting. In my family gifts were used to shame, punish and pass judgment. Sharon finds the intricate and mandatory Japanese traditions to be oppressive at best. I’m sure we could, with time and work, overcome these issues but why bother for something that we just don’t find to be fun or rewarding? We’ve both got plenty of other shit to work on.

We also have a more concrete thing to consider. We’re poor. Not sleeping on the street type poor but we survive on very little money; surprisingly small amounts for the time and place in which we live. That doesn’t mean we don’t live well. We do. It does mean we have to make very specific decisions about where every dollar goes. We have very few possessions, but the ones we have are things we really like. We have no loans, no credit cards and carry no debt. These things are way too expensive. This isn’t a complaint. Far from it. It’s the expected result of the decisions we’ve made and we’re quite content with most of those.

One of the interesting results of poverty induced mindfulness in your spending is that our expenditures truly reflect who we are. We’re happy as hell to spend a couple hundred dollars on dinner and drinks but we buy most of our clothes at thrift stores. We’ve been to Europe twice in the last few years but we don’t have a car. We live in a small one room apartment for ourselves and our business but it has a killer view and a pool. Our economic choices exactly correlate to our priorities.

The other important result is that I have two things that I feel are far more valuable than money; time and skills. Making money can be a slow and repetitive process and I don’t have to spend much time that way. You might not get a gift from me but I share my time and my experience as generously as I can. Most of my teaching is done for free. I’m available for crisis counseling when it needs to happen. I can make long term commitments to at risk kids. I’ll be there for your rehab. I’ll teach you to shoot, help you move or finish your taxes. I’ll buy the next round of drinks while you cry on my shoulder and I’ll almost never have to say I’m too busy to get together.

So there you have it; our chosen tradition. Or I’m just a cheap Scottish fuck. I suppose that’s a possibility too. Either way December is a lot less stressful in our house. Hopefully you can see why Christmas wouldn’t be our kind of holiday. Solstice? Sure. New Year’s? Okay. But a holiday based around the birth of someone who isn’t our savior and a practice that we’ve rejected? No thank you. Merry Christmas to you but we’ll sit this one out.