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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Creating a New Version of Christmas

Last year, I turned against Christmas.

No, I'm not denying the real reason for Christmas, to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ (although some scholars believe the birth actually happened in April, not December). I am, however, fed up with the constant media hype about 'the perfect gift' and commercials depicting a loving man buying his beautiful family a $50,000 Lexus for Christmas. I am fed up with seeing Christmas decorations in some stores in August. I am fed up with being bombarded by demands for money from various non-profit organizations, some of which send me an appeal every week starting in July.

I understand that not everybody celebrates the religious aspects of Christmas, and I have no quarrel with that. I once had a Jewish colleague at work who celebrates Christmas in its non-religious aspects. But for many people, Christmas is nothing more than an adventure in shopping and spending. And apparently stores and online sellers would like to keep it that way. People get trampled or shot as they rush to get the latest must-have electronic gadget or toy on Black Friday (which now starts on Thanksgiving). Fist fights break out as people squabble over the last remaining item without which there just will be no Christmas. So this is the Christmas spirit?

My mailbox, my e-mail, and my Facebook feed are swamped with appeals for money. Yes, I know that times are tough and the need is great, but enough is enough! I cannot donate to every worthwhile charity; I cannot save every animal in need. I cannot help fund research into every worthwhile medical issue or help feed every hungry person. I do what I can, but it seems that never is enough. The more I donate, the more frequent the appeals for still more money.

I don't want to hear radio stations playing nothing but Christmas music on November 1. I want to be able to enjoy Thanksgiving without it being just a bump in the road on the way to the over-hyped Christmas season.

I am disgusted by the whole business. This year, I will not mail Christmas cards to anybody. My shopping, which is very limited already, will be done online with organizations that use the proceeds to do good. So far I have ordered salsas and preserves from Shane's War, to benefit an organization that works to improve the lives of animals in underfunded animal shelters. I also will shop at the Southwest Indian Foundation, which works throughout the year to provide food, shelter and heat to impoverished residents of the Navajo Nation. I will make fudge and a variety of cookies to send to some out-of-town friends.

I plan to spend the week before Christmas in a place where commercialism and greed haven't yet overtaken the true meaning of this day. Then I want to enjoy a day with my daughter and my dogs, although her Scrooge boss expects her to work both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

 I love Christmas music, and I have more than 40 CDs of Christmas tunes by a wide variety of artists. I have a collection of ornaments from around the world -- Russia, Poland, Kenya among other places. I like to decorate the house, although putting up a tree is a chore. I want to find ways to celebrate the true meaning of this special holiday, and that does not include fighting throngs of shoppers at the mall and driving myself into a frenzy in an ill-fated attempt to find 'the perfect gift.' I will not run up massive debt buying things for people who don't need or want anything. Instead, I will make my shopping count by buying from organizations that put the money I spend to good use helping others.

This season really is about giving back to our communities, helping those not as fortunate as we are, fighting for what we are most passionate about (whether that is an endangered animal species, preservation of wilderness, fighting an injustice or feeding the hungry), and—as old-fashioned as it might appear—doing what is right. Please join me in creating a new, less stressful, kinder and more meaningful version of the Christmas holiday.