A rare trip to the supermarket last week caused me to adopt my seasonal bah humbug attitude a few weeks earlier than normal. Meandering down the aisle of pretty christmas lights and baubles and garlands (glittery twinkly shiny stuff in the depths of an otherwise grey winter is one aspect of the holiday season that I can get on board with), thinking that it would keep Gus amused for a few minutes; I had failed to account for the presence of a massive display of Toy Story 3 merchandise at the end of the aisle. Mine was not the only child within earshot that was clamoring to get out of his trolley seat, though I shamefully admit that he was the only one that took off his shoes in a fit of rage and threw them at a complete stranger's feet. After apologising, I hastily made my escape in the opposite direction, to more screams of protest from the now incensed boy; and turning the corner crashed into another stack of said merchandise. A quick sweep revealed I had walked into a parenting booby-trap, displays of Buzz Lightyear and Woody for the boys alternated with shelves full of Hello Kitty and Disney Princesses for the girls.
I have known, from the tenderly cynical age of ten, that this isn't what the biggest festival of our calendar should be about. Then again, neither is my well honed cynicism and refusal to get into the joy of a seasonal celebration that marks the coldest and darkest time of year. There is a reason that a midwinter festival of some sort occurs throughout the cold and temperate regions of the world, across religions; and who am I to have argued with the recived wisdom of my ancestors? The songs, stories and traditions of this time usually highlight the return of light to the world, tales of hope and redemption, peace and goodwill, the promise that a community could make it through the long harsh nights and bitter weather. Central heating and air freighted strawberries have successfully killed that spirit for many, but the message should not be lost, especially in the depths of recession and increasing hardship.
That is I think what needs to be regained; and perhaps here in the UK, because we no longer celebrate our harvest festivals, a time for giving thanks for all that has been gathered in the previous year. I know that I need to recapture the joy of the Christmas; and trying to stick it to those who see this merely as an annual merchandising opportunity, whilst not strictly charitable of spirit, would only heighten my joy. This year I will be working Christmas and Boxing Day (yup, nothing screams celebration and sticking it to 'em like a regular day at the office), I am on a low-fat diet thanks to gallstones (out with the mincepies, stuffed goose, chocolate santa breakfast and cheese and cracker selection then) and thanks to the debt repayment plan I have little money to plough into a celebration. These supposed annoyances might just go in my favour and actually support my sticking it to 'em quite nicely. I have little money to spend, so I am going to be very careful where I spend it. I can't binge on regular seasonal fare which means a lot of thoughtful food choices and cooking from scratch.
This week I began my preparations by making salt dough decorations; and being thankful that I have enough food in the depths of winter that I could throw it into pretty craft projects. That seems an appropriate start to a more frugal, meaningful season.