It’s hard to believe that almost an entire year is about to end and it is that time again to turn our lives upside down to supposedly be merry for the most anticipated holiday of the year, Christmas.
Passersby on my street looked on in both astonishment and confusion as I scrubbed my balcony this past Tuesday and I stared back with disgust at their inquisitiveness. Perhaps they were sharing thoughts of concern with their eyes because I was scrubbing away in frigid weather conditions. To be honest, I too was concerned for my well-being, but had to stick to my inherited Christmas traditions, however silly and over the top they may seem to some.
Guyanese often refer to the Christmas cleaning and organising as ‘putting away the house’ and everyone has their own degree to which they indulge in the festivities. Some anticipate a fresh coat of paint for the house, whilst for others its more about food luxuries and refreshing their drapes. Though most of what we indulge in for the holidays is inconsistent with what actually celebrating the holiday is all about, there is a strange magnetic pull to spend during this time and sadly for some the season’s joy is equated to money being spent.
The need to feel as if we are indulging in the season has been influenced by the media and falling prey to keeping up with the Joneses. Through manipulation, Christmas has been infiltrated by inescapable capitalism and whether or not we actively try to avoid it, living in the digital age has made it impossible, quite frankly. Even updating friends and family through social handles about your preparations amplifies the excitement.
As a little girl, I was groomed into thinking that the cleaning, the ‘putting away’ and the spending were what it meant to happily celebrate Christmas, no matter how stressful it seems. I remember not being able to sit in certain chairs in my Godmother’s house during the season because they were set. Ensuring everything gets done and is bought is like a second job. Not to mention costly instead of sentimental. We forget the why and just focus on the “which” and “how much”. The pressure of buying unnecessary gifts makes it an even more of daunting task, which is why, this week, I am sharing my ‘Christmas Survival Rules’.
Not spending an arm and a leg
You don’t have to buy gifts for every Tom, Dick and Harry. I feel gift giving should be kept personal: only among close friends and family. In the wrong hands, gifts can be a secret weapon to insinuate dominant status, power and influence. Be sincere and practical about your gifts. Get something that could be used and not parked up as just another souvenir of the gift-giving season.
Pick a splurge
I honestly think remodelling your entire home for the season to impress guests and yourself for temporary happiness and semi-permanent financial instability is foolish. I understand the need to buy to feel ‘in the season,’ especially when you have just received that tempting bonus, but prioritize please. Pick something that you need to change and invest in that. I usually buy brand new sheets for Christmas. Last year was my first year, actually. Apart from that, despite the tiresome duty of cleaning your home from top to bottom, cleaning actually makes things feel brand new. So maybe that’s why we Guyanese insist on doing it.
Avoidance and strategy
Being an organised person pays off. I read somewhere that gift shopping left to the last minute usually results in spending way much more than you budgeted for. The timing builds anxiousness to just get it over with resulting in you just grabbing whatever is available. You don’t have to buy Christmas presents in December, they could be bought year round. Be okay with that. The same way, you don’t have to buy Christmas décor or any novelty items in December.
Capitalize on sales after the holiday season. Sometimes that helps reveal how terribly capitalist the entire season has become and thus you can resist the urge to spend stupidly.