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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Advent Conspiracy

The other day while at work I had a serious craving for chocolate. (no I'm not pregnant - just being a typical woman) I debated with myself on whether to indulge in this craving or not. The debate didn't last long and I succumbed. It was meant to be I tell you, because when I got to the drug store chocolate bars were on a special 3 for @2. Of course I had to buy three. Remarkably I only ate one - that day, I polished off the other two over the next days!
I've been trying so hard to be healthy lately but the last week has been a battle, and I'm not winning. Food is just too good and sometimes resisting junk food is more than I can handle.

Here's something that's been on my mind lately:
As Christmas is quickly approaching so does the bombardment of all the activities and events associated with it: parties, banquets, decorating, church programs, and gift buying are beginning to occupy my thoughts. I enjoy all aspects of the season but they do make life busy and if I'm not careful - stressful.
Gift giving is often my top stress stimulator as I attempt to find time to seek out the perfect items for my friends and family. As a Christian I believe that the focus of Christmas is celebrating our Saviour's birth. While that is true for us, exchanging gifts has also become very special and important with my family. It's not that we're materialistic, it's just that there is something neat about the process of gift giving and receiving that supersedes the worldly end of it. We enjoy buying for each other, congregating together as a family and with friends, and seeing the excitement as each gift is opened. My parents have always done a great job of giving us awesome gifts without extravagant expense. We consistently provide each other with lists of what we want and generally stick to those lists so as to make shopping easier and not end up with unwanted/unneeded items. We never spend a lot of money since there hasn't been much to spend and when there was/is perhaps a little extra my parents set an example of chosing to save it for things like holidays.

A struggle for me is that Trevor was raised differently in that gifts and somewhat Christmas itself were really "no big deal". His family did exchange gifts but did them all on Christmas Eve so Christmas day was often boring for him. (He's told me of stories such as he and a friend driving around in a rental car and using it to push a dumpster off of a loading dock behind a mall.) Not that his family didn't value Christmas or think it special - I've celebrated some very nice Christmases with them, it was just very low-key. Since meeting me Trevor has took a hold of our enthusiasm and joined in with our boisturous Christmas antics; my family is a little crazy and craziness can be infectious. Comparitively, I find his family still very...oh I don't know what word to use, not uninterested but there's not as much zeal as I'm used to. Last year his entire family travelled to his parents (his sister from New York included) and when discussing gifts beforehand his sister suggested just making donations instead. I don't have a problem with that except that it came across as "can't be bothered to do anything else." Recently I also saw a facebook comment of how she hated shopping in relation to Christmas gifts. Trevor's brother only gave us our 2007 gift this past July! This year his parents have flat out told us they don't want anything. When they send gifts they are very conscious of mailing costs and keep the gifts small and minimal and send mostly money. Money is great, don't get me wrong, but at times it feels somewhat like a cop out. Trevor's mom once told me that she doesn't like lists because she prefers the surprise element. To me that just increases the stress level and risks of useless, unappreciated gifts. Although Trevor doesn't say much I sense that he's a little disappointed with the situation.

For me when I shop for gifts I'm thinking about the people I'm buying for. These are people I love and for me the process is about remembering them and who they are and wanting to give them something nice as an expression of that. By telling me not to buy them something I feel robbed of that experience. That's probably why it bothers me when his family doesn't want to do gifts because it's so personal for me and I think it should be for everyone. I have a dear friend who faithfully sends me a box every Christmas. She fills it with all sorts of neat items like candles, ornaments, lip gloss, funky socks, and pens. No item costs much but I know she has taken the time to find these items and I believe she enjoys doing so. That makes me feel special. I try to respect Trevor's family in this for who they are and I love and appreciate them. Yet I still have a really hard time with the gift issue and don't know what to do about it.

Another perspective: Our church is promoting something called Advent Conspiracy. Please check out this link and watch the video. It really affected me how obsessed with 'things' we've become her in North America when people in other areas of the world are dying due to a simple lack of clean water. I like how it doesn't say not to buy gifts but buy less and donate more.

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