Monday, September 8, 2008

Skipping Christmas...


School has started and we are already into the second week of September. December will be here before you know it and I've started my new Christmas traditions already.

Has anyone read the book Skipping Christmas, by John Grisham?

.John Grisham turns a satirical eye on the overblown ritual of the festive holiday season, and the result is Skipping Christmas, a modest but funny novel about the tyranny of December 25. Grisham's story revolves around a typical middle-aged American couple, Luther and Nora Krank. On the first Sunday after Thanksgiving they wave their daughter Blair off to Peru to work for the Peace Corps, and they suddenly realize that "for the first time in her young and sheltered life Blair would spend Christmas away from home." Luther Krank sees his daughter's Christmas absence as an opportunity. He estimates that "a year earlier, the Luther Krank family had spent $6,100 on Christmas," and have "precious little to show for it." So he makes an executive decision, telling his wife, friends, and neighbors that "we won't do Christmas." Instead, Luther books a 10-day Caribbean cruise. But things start to turn nasty when horrified neighbors get wind of the Krank's subversive scheme and besiege the couple with questions about their decision.
Grisham builds up a funny but increasingly terrifying picture of how this tight-knit community turns on the Kranks, who find themselves under increasing pressure to conform. As the tension mounts, readers may wonder whether they will manage to board their plane on Christmas day. Skipping Christmas is Grisham-lite, with none of the serious action or drama of his legal thrillers, but a funny poke at the craziness of Christmas.

When I first picked up the book several years ago it was the title that intrigued me. Every year, I become the "Christmas Fairy" and try to make one day out of the year nearly perfect for my entire family. It's huge pressure and many times (usually by the third week in December) I wish that I could just skip it. My mood goes sour and the bank account goes red. And it's not just about the money. It's trying to figure out what to buy, how much to spend, and hopefully come out not looking cheap or lame.

Our Christmas gift list has grown each and every year, mainly because two of my closest friends decided to swap presents (with entire families). We do not live near family, so in essence these two families have become our family. And, we always entertained our friends at our home, also adding the pressure of cooking and entertaining for dozens.

So I've decided to do some "skipping" of my own this year....Instead of buying gifts and cooking all the meals, I've asked my friends if we could just share a "potluck" meal together this year (no gifts). I've also asked my siblings if we could nix swapping money at Christmas. (My brother sends a check for my kids, I send for his). This alone would eliminate shopping for 12 gifts.

I'm hoping by doing this, I can bring back the true meaning of Christmas...and be able to instill peace on earth, good will toward man to others without grumbling bah humbug through the whole season.

Does anyone have any more ideas to bring the joy back into the season for a very tired mother of 4?

14 comments:

letters to elijah said...

I read this book a few years back.. it was a quick fun read.
I thought everyone was crazy in the book - the neighbors and the couple that wanted to get away.

How to bring the joy back? have realistic expectations! do simple things (ie. always go sledding, or play the same game) build simple traditions that are family building.

Riaan Oosthuysen said...

Very interesting way to look at Christmas but one that makes sense to me

Francois Viljoen said...

@Sharon

I think you've done very well with your "potluck" idea and swapping money with your siblings.

When I read your blog, I got the feeling that the difficult thing for is is that you feel people will expect more, or look down on you for not spending a lot of money.

That certainly won't be nice. But really, if they do, it tells me that something is warped.

I think the best thing is just to set a budget for Christmas and stay in it come hell or high water. Even if it means giving only chocolates, and no matter what anyone thinks...

paradigmshifted said...

i like the idea of a shared potluck meal. just spending time together and enjoying the holiday. make sure that everyone really does bring a dish and you aren't stuck trying to fill the gaps in missing dishes. for the non-cookers, make them bring the wine and egg nog. :)

my main issue with gift-giving holidays is the idea of reciprocity. i don't like the obligation. if i want to buy a gift, i will. if i don't, i won't. and that should not your decision to buy or not to buy.

but it can be very hard, with large groups of people, for everyone to be ok with that...

Sharon said...

@francois,
I've already created a budget, my goal is to come a bit under. But it's not just about the money, it's about the expectations that I'm afraid I've created through the years...

@Dana,
Wish we could go sledding...we haven't had snow here in two years! :) But yes, realistic expections...as I said to Francois, I think the problem was that I've created the expections, and now I have to change.

@Riaan,
How do you celebrate Christmas?

Riaan Oosthuysen said...

Sharon. We've changed our focus the last two years. We concentrate on the real meaning and not the presents but it is difficult with children. We've explained the true meaning to our daughter (6 years)and give her present on that premesis. To family we only give something small and inexpensive. We've stopped giving to friend and we explained to the why. I think they understand.

Sharon said...

Thanks Riaan, I hope to do the same!

Riaan Oosthuysen said...

Sharon. Sorry for the Afrikaans on my blog. There's a lot of blogs writing about financial freedom in English but not in Afrikaans and I hope that I can get the message to Afrikaans speaking people. I have a challenge regarding time to do it in English as well. But maybe in the future time would be available. I also think slower in English and battle with my tenses. Was and were, is and are and al that stuff.

RTC said...

Sharon,
I think you have made some good decisions about scaling back on gifts for friends and extended family. Are you feeling less pressure with these new parameters?
I think you are taking a healthy path to change something that was not working for your family.

Sharon said...

@deepali,

I totally agree with you when it comes to reciprocation. I would like to give to those I want to, not feel obligated just because I received a gift. Christmas has just gotten way out of hand.

Love the idea of bringing wine, eggnog. And you are right, usually the hostess ends up doing the bulk of the cooking...

jpkittie said...

your ideas sound wonderful! We are also doing some of the same stuff this year with the holidays - it does seem silly to write my God daughter a $50 check & then her mom (DD's Godmother) will write my daughter a $50 check! We too are eliminating that this year!

Thanks for the book suggestion - I just requested it from the library!!!

Anonymous said...

I am going to look for this book at the library ASAP! As much as I love Christmas, I am always telling my husband that I would love to skip it, just ONCE. Every year it's a battle to cut back (Parents getting bristly when siblings decide not to exchange gifts, a sister being snarky when we attempted to buy her child a gift that fit OUR budget), and it gets more and more stressful each year. We go into debt each December, then spend the following January-November trying to get out of it...only to start all over again.
I could already feel the stress coming along, and then I found your blog! I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one to suffer from Christmas-doesnt-have-to-cost-a-fortune-itis. :-)

Jennifer said...

Sounds like a good book. I have also heard good things about the documentary "What Would Jesus Buy". Hope to get the book and see the movie. :)

Clean ClutterFree Simple said...

A few years ago, we asked extended family to stop giving/expecting gifts for the adults. In other words, we asked to turn off the obligatory gift giving. It was tough at first, but once it kicked in, we all agree it's great. The kids still get gifts, but there's no pressure, it's all just for joy.

We keep the holiday low key and focus on the spiritual importance of it--renewal, the end of one season the start of another, family, hope.

We always have a tree and stockings. But nothing elaborate, we don't buy all new decorations every year.