Christmas has forever been one of my favorite times of the year. I love being with my family; I love decorating, and all things the Season has to offer.
I have been known to string my house with lights as early as November 1st. To the garage goes Halloween and out comes Christmas.
When my kids were little, I desired to make the Holiday’s perfect for them. Baking cookies, decorating the tree (while they watched, because ornament balance), hot chocolate while hitting the mountain for sleigh rides and tobogganing. Trying to depict the picture perfect Hallmark-Card Christmas, and give my children a lifetime of memories.
Somewhere along the way, I faltered.
My Son’s first Christmas happened to be the year Tickle me Elmo was all the rage. I was determined to give him the toy-of-the-year. At eleven months old, and celebrating his first Christmas, I had already begun to teach my son Christmas Commercialism, and I had no idea the effects it would have on me later. Fixed on having the Elmo under the tree I bought it months before Christmas. And along came the mountains of presents purchased in extreme surplus after.
Spending insane amounts of money on unneeded and often useless objects had kind of always been my Christmas.
I’m pretty much the definition of white privilege. I grew up in the average nuclear family. A latchkey kid with two professional working parents, and a younger brother. My parents worked hard to raise us in an affluent neighborhood in the burbs. Don’t get me wrong, my parent’s had financial ups and downs like anyone, but lack we did not. Materialism through and through. It was the eighties; it was all about excess, including my Mom’s extreme blue eye-shadow. Christmas was no different, and in following my parents footsteps, I brought those traditions to my young family.
I haven’t spent a lot of time in my life worrying about where the next meal on my table will come from, not until recent years.
Over three years ago, I put myself and my family in an awful position with a remarkably shameful gambling addiction. It obviously rocked my world financially. I own my issue completely and have had a lot of people help me through tough times in the past two years. I am and always will be eternally grateful. Today, I am 776 days clean.
My financial issues in the past couple of years have taught me more about myself, and others than I thought possible. Particularly during the Christmas Season. A time we often overindulge and do all things to the utmost abundance.
When this Christmas Season fell upon me, the pressure mounted as the November calendar was ripped from the wall and replaced with December. I found I wasn’t interested, and I believe my lack of enthusiasm had entirely to do with money and the materialism I’ve been so used to spreading during the Holidays’.
Living pay cheque to pay cheque is common for so many and is now the way I live. And please don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining by any means, I’m happy to be getting a pay cheque. I know I am fortunate to have everything I possess. I also know I am in the financial position I am, based on poor decisions I’ve made.
However, my kids have warm beds to sleep in, food on the table, and I can afford the occasional bottle of wine. Day to-day finances can be a struggle at times, but never dire. And daily stresses can go through the roof during the Holidays. Wanting to keep up with Christmas’s past, has caused me an overwhelming amount of anxiety this year.
I used to be the Mom, bragging on Facebook, proclaiming my Christmas shopping finished the first week of December. I used to be able to afford Christmas. Once posting pictures of expensive presents and overstuffed stockings placed under the tree.
Lacking finances this year has taught me so much, not only concerning the differences between my needs and wants. But it has given me insight to so many other families much worse off than I.
Families that struggle to eat, not only shop for gifts. As I wait for the final cheque before Christmas to buy something for somebody. These families waiting for that cheque so that they can feed their family.
While I am out rushing from store to store, last-minute, because I live pay cheque to pay cheque. Feeling miserable, because I feel I will let down my previously spoiled children, my neighbor may be searching the cupboard for food.
And as I watch all you wonderfully generous people all over Facebook, blazon your generosity for the family you are sponsoring for Christmas, there are the people like me, the in-betweeners, trying to keep up with our secular Christmas past. Overlooking the essence of Christmas, and everything we are teaching our children.
I think we’re doing it wrong, and I am the first to admit, I’m still doing it wrong. I have spent the past week running around, spending money, I probably shouldn’t be spending, and teaching my kids a very skewed definition of Christmas. This year I have no choice but to break the cycle, I have no choice but to cut back on the gifts. And so what if I can’t afford to do as much as I once have. I am grateful for all the things I do have.
There’s love here.
There’s food here.
There’s family here.
There are beds to sleep in, and heat to keep us warm.
There will be less under my Christmas tree this year, but at least, I have a house to put a Christmas tree in.