I hope the season finds you well & good, and that you’re making plans to be close to friends & family & loved ones. My little gift to you: I’d like to offer what I think is a pretty reasonable suggestion: Don’t go broke this holiday season.
For the past several years (back into the nineties, at least), my family & I have enjoyed a hundred dollar Christmas – spending no more than that. Does that mean no presents?
Hardly! It means homemade candles (one year), specially burnt CDs, certificates for babysitting, log-splitting and other “chores,” home-cooked banana bread, homemade calendars…great fun.
I just noticed how many times I said “home.”
Anyway, I’ve posted this before, but I’d like to offer this essay by Bill McKibben once more as an articulate explanation of this notion – see what you think, then see what you do:
A Hundred Dollar Christmas
A small revolt takes hold in the author’s New England hometown.
By Bill McKibben
from the November/December 1997 Issue of Mother Jones
You CAN spend less, ya know….keep it simple.
I know what I’ll be doing on Christmas Eve. My wife, my 4-year-old daughter, my dad, my brother, and I will snowshoe out into the woods in late afternoon, ready to choose a hemlock or a balsam fir and saw it down — I’ve had my eye on three or four likely candidates all year.
We’ll bring it home, shake off the snow, decorate it, and then head for church, where the Sunday school class I help teach will gamely perform this year’s pageant. (Last year, along with the usual shepherds and wise people, it featured a lost star talking on a cell phone.) And then it’s home to hang stockings, stoke the fire, and off to bed. As traditional as it gets, except that there’s no sprawling pile of presents under the tree.
Several years ago, a few of us in the northern New York and Vermont conference of the United Methodist Church started a campaign for what we called “Hundred Dollar Holidays.” The church leadership voted to urge parishioners not to spend more than $100 per family on presents, to rely instead on simple homemade gifts and on presents of services — a back rub, stacking a cord of firewood. That first year I made walking sticks for everyone. Last year I made spicy chicken sausage. My mother has embraced the idea by making calendars illustrated with snapshots she’s taken.
The $100 figure was a useful anchor against the constant seductions of the advertisers, a way to explain to children why they weren’t getting everything on their list.
So far, our daughter, Sophie, does fine at Christmas. Her stocking is exciting to her; the tree is exciting; skating on the pond is exciting. It’s worth mentioning, however, that we don’t have a television, so she may not understand the degree of her impoverishment.