Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Yarnarian and the Winter Holidays; a Curmudgeon Gripes!

Did you have a nice Thanksgiving? Are you doing the malls? Not us! We don't need gifts, and I neither want nor need anything at all and I hate crowds, so we are not going near a mall.

I was thinking about the difference between the winter holidays in my childhood, way back at the beginning of time. I am a war baby, so my take on the holidays is very different from baby boomers and you young 'uns.

When I was a kid, we never got Hanukkah presents. If we were lucky, someone gave us a shiny quarter for Hanukkah gelt (money). That was it. We lit the candles, said the prayers, sang the songs, and did not play dreidel (which is the world's stupidest game). All my friends were Christian, so I was invited to tree trimmings and such and was quite content with it. I don't ever remember feeling deprived. Jews had their holiday with its customs; Christians had their holiday with its customs. It was cool.

So along come my kids in the 70s, and I feel this need to do Hanukkah presents. Why? I'm not sure, but somewhere between the 1940's and the 1970's people began to think very differently about Hanukkah. Maybe it was all the ads on TV, but all of a sudden Jewish kids felt very deprived without all the presents, or at least their parents felt that they were deprived. So we turned this little holiday which is about religious freedom and fighting for that freedom into a marathon present giving opportunity. In short, folks, we got sucked into the present buying.

Stores are of course thrilled about more of the population buying presents, and kids love it, but I think we're nuts. Having said that, I belong into the "nuts" category, because I love giving presents to the grands. The daughters get gift certificates or cash, whichever they prefer, the little guys get gifts. (The Hubbo and I only exchange birthday presents, and that is usually a PayPal transfer.)

When my daughters were kids, we did the 8 gifts for 8 nights mishegoss (craziness). But they were small presents and I started buying them in the summer. The presents would all be wrapped up and put into 2 piles, one for each DD. First thing in the morning, they'd barrel downstairs and pick out a present, run back up the stairs, land in our bed and open the present. Lots of fun, and in the evening, we would light the candles, say the prayers, sing the songs badly and go outside to admire all those lovely lights. We pretty much kept the presents separate from the actual holiday observance and it worked out very well. I didn't go overboard and didn't get sucked into the latest and greatest junk. And they didn't much care.

I guess I'm grumping because I don't like seeing these two very divergent holidays getting mixed up with each other. Hanukkah is about fighting for the right to worship as we choose; Christmas is about the birth of the Christ Child. They are not the same animal, not even close. That's one side of the coin. The other side is that Jewish kids really do feel deprived and left out at Christmas time. So what to do? Turn Hanukkah into a present-giving holiday? The 8 nights makes it easy to do that. And it is hard on a kid to go to school and listen to everybody talk about what she/he wants for Christmas. You see my dilemma?

As it is, this whole present buying is lunacy. People getting trampled to death by crazy buyers? The pressure on everybody to give when their finances are not in the giving zone? The sheer amount of stuff that gets bought that nobody needs? And yet, this is the one season that retailers can get ahead and make a profit. So we need shopping and commercialism and such, and it really is nice to give and get gifts. But does it have to be at this level? Are people supposed to go into debt and spend the entire next year paying off their credit cards for toys that are discarded, or sweaters not worn, or gizmos that nobody needs or wants?

This is an annual rant of mine and I thought I'd share it with you. You do know that I have no solutions to any of this craziness, just babbling on here.

So, dear reader, any thoughts on the above? Have I lost my marbles? Am I not getting into the spirit of the holidays? Am I in danger of the "Bah Humbug" disease?
Feel free to agree or disagree, but nicely and politely. Tell me what you think. I'll answer in the next posting, and then you can respond to that, and this can go on until next December.

7 comments:

nestra said...

It it incredibly out of control! What is it that the crowds could have needed so badly that they had to trample someone? They weren't looking for food, they were rushing in for crappy toys that would probably be discarded in six months anyway.

But then again may I'm a curmudgeon too.

molly said...

At a mall (an outside mall with plenty of room for all) here in Ohio, a person had a broken nose and a person ended up with a broken arm. I don't think there is anything in this world worth hurting someone else, whether it is a broken nose or trampling someone to death. What a truly sad state of affairs.

SwissKnits! said...

Oh how I wish we could all go back to the days where giving a sweet little something, a nice meal, and some games by the fire would make for a perfect holiday. Kind of like the holiday chapters in The Little House on the Prairie... a penny and a peppermint stick...and some songs from Pa's fiddle...

I do try to find a balance with my three kids...

Great story that you shared, thanks!

skepweaver said...

It's so tough to try to impose simplicity on the world! Or even on the family. I show up at family gatherings hoping for a chance to read aloud from Dylan Thomas at Christmas, which has got to be almost pitiful from the standpoint of my college age niece. I bring the little book anyway, and then carry it away with me again every year. I bring the ukulele (OK, you can laugh if you want), prepared with a nice holiday solo. Do I get time to play it? Nah. My brother gets drunk and my sister-in-law says she's had it and goes to bed, and my niece opens presents under the tree in the Bonus Room while the men-in-laws discuss politics in the kitchen. At intervals the front door opens, a daughter-in-law shwooshes in with 5 kids, drops off a bunch of wrapped boxes and scoops up an armful to go, and off they fly...

Sorry. I'm borrowing your rant.

Carry on.

Visualize simplicity and tradition. It would be good for a change.

S.

=Tamar said...

My family gave up on presents in stages. First we decided that all gifts had to come from yard sales or thrift shops. Then an exception was made for handmade stuff. Then we stopped all gift-giving except for the kids. Once in awhile a food gift may arrive but there is no obligation. On the other hand, we tend to give stuff when we come across it instead of waiting for any particular occasion.

A group I'm in does an annual Mathom Party, using the model of the one in The Hobbit (or maybe it was the first book of the Lord of the Rings). Good stuff that is just not needed is wrapped and put in a heap, and people are called in some order (alphabet, birthdate, height, whatever) to pick a package. (They can't take their own.) Then people can trade if they agree to. (Some people use the forced trades method but I hate that.)

Neither of these involves fighting crowds.

knitty, witty, woo ( Tracey ). said...

I just hate Christmas for all the reasons you have posted. The sheer commercialism of it has gone too far.I was brought up Christian and I cannot see how 3 wise men giving gifts changes to a mad stampede to the shops every year.
As we have 3 kids we have been buying gifts that were not needed but this year we are seriously toning it down.

Anonymous said...

For the last few years instead of giving presents, I donate to several charities and wrap the brochure about the charities as the gift.

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