Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas with a 'Capital' C

I officially reached that point of Christmas scroogy-ness about 3 days ago. I had thought I'd take a nice solo trip around the very local, very New Mexico "Old Town" shopping center, and just browse the hand-made gifts. By the 20th store I went into, still having bought nothing but $2.00 worth of gimmicky candy and piece of chocolate to round the price up to credit limit, I began to feel bleak.
I compared this feeling of being compelled to partake in Christmas commerce with that nauseous feeling that comes after trying to devour too large a piece of homemade chocolate ganache cake. It looks so delicious at first, and it's homemade, so you can TASTE the love in it, which practically justifies the large slice sitting in front of you. But after the first 15 bites, your teeth start to curl, your stomach churns and you try to remember the last time you at this much sugar, butter, cream, and flour in one sitting. You force down the last 7 bites, trying to savor it but silently promising yourself to never, ever eat another piece of cake, even if it is homemade. (Really though, does this happen to anyone else?)

Showing off our Christmas goodies

In other words, I started feeling really overwhelmed by all the crap around me. Yes all the pottery is beautiful and someone in my family would probably enjoy a pack of local spices, or a hand-painted mirror (at least the moment they opened it). But I found myself regretting the whole shopping experience.
Wasn't I the one just a few weeks ago touting* the entire Christmas experience. "I don't really celebrate Christmas" I explained to a friend at the beginning of the month. Winter Solstice is the holiday I truly align with. I don't even get my family presents. Though I appreciate the ones they get me."
While this is mostly true, I have in the past, made simple gifts for friends and family, and when I had to purchase something, made sure it was practical, like a planner, or a bag or tea. The whole idea of buying something just because the holiday tradition compels you to was completely beyond me, and yet here I was looking at my list and brainstorming what to get those last few people.

Clearly, at some point between the beginning of the month and this middle month period, I was attacked by the Holiday Spirit. Part of it probably came as we decorated our tumbleweed tree, or put up lights around the house (we kept intending to move them outside for others to enjoy, but we loved them so much that they've stayed indoors, draped from the rafters around the living room). Another part came as I discovered Christmas stations on Spotify (which itself is a new toy for me), and then again as I found the long lost Christmas CD's my mother has made me for the last 2 years (because I seem to lose them every year).
Proud of our NM/X-masy thrift store clothes

But now I sit here, Christmas filling me like that homemade cake, making plans for how to savor the actual holiday which in my mind begins on my flight home on Monday. Part of my over-saturation is likely because I haven't had much work to do. This is my slow season, and the more I force myself to sit back and enjoy the recooperation time, the more I look forward to those family-surrounded moments in the state I grew up in.
Despite all my personal opinions and situations, I think there's something deeper that distracts us from the Christmas message. This isn't the icing on the cake, it's the highly refined white flour that makes up the cakes interior, which is disguised by fancily decorated icing. That flour is the very thing America is abundant of...capitalism. (An interesting article on Holidays and capitalism can be found here).
This year, even more than in the past, I have seen spikes of optimism followed by checks of reality. Living in this new city has propelled that. I talk to teachers, landscape managers and active citizens walking or running through the park, and I am inspired by a clear up-and-coming paradigm shift toward communities (not communism...) and away from the downward spiral that our nation is based upon.
But then I travel downtown, or I get pulled into a whole Foods or a Michaels, and I'm dumbfounded by the shelves of identical crap that is exactly the same as the crap on shelves on the other side of town, the other side of the state, and across the country. It quickly become clear that a paradigm shift is going to take a long time, as people's habits are fixated on want, on acquiring and buying...all thanks to our capitalism.
I think I have safely let the cake pass through my system...and am ready for another dose... the usual pre-new year promise that this will be my last. As I approach Christmas I plan to make the most of each moment, appreciating the family surrounding me, and trying to over look the mark that our unsustainable system leaves on everything around us (especially in my increasingly growing hometown). Even as I try this, the truth inside me will be begging for one Christmas wish to come true.
I spend my days trying to educate people about the world they live in. Whether I'm reading a book to help me explain the atmosphere, or designing a program for a group of pre-k students to get their hands in dirt, I am devoting my life to teaching people to make conscious decisions. Whether they are "good" decisions or "bad" decisions, whatever the repercussion...if only people could be educated about the decisions they make, I would live fulfilled.
So my Christmas wish is this; that everyone in this amazing America can make informed decisions in 2015...or at the least be educated about the consequences of their actions.
Since Santa isn't going to grant this, I guess I'll have to do it myself. More on those plans in 2015.
[For another inspring and interesting take on gift giving, check out Amy Reading's Anti-Capitalist guide to Holidays]

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