Seasons Greetings with a dash of Thoreau

All I want for Christmas is…

It’s a great question. I won’t answer just yet. Instead, I will share this quote from Thoreau:

Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth. I sat at a table where were rich food and wine in abundance, and obsequious attendance, but sincerity and truth were not; and I went away hungry from the inhospitable board.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Originally a Christian celebration Christmas has grown to encompass so much more. We see it as a time to share meals with family and friends, work colleagues and neighbours, and sometimes even strangers. Seasons’ greetings hope for love, peace and goodwill and these things have no denomination, no particular culture and are certainly not limited to any race.

I read an article recently, The Empty Promises of Consumerism and with Christmas upon us, it made an impression. I have become a little cynical and then when the author of the post mentioned Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, something I hold in great fascination, I couldn’t help wondering about the difference between want and need, taking into account the fact that Christmas seems to be all about gifts. Hence, that touch of cynicism.

During Covid many were far from satisfied with meeting the most basic needs and had no hesitation to voice this. Others on the other hand made the best of an exceedingly difficult situation by calling on common sense and creativity and most of all, patience. Clarity made an appearance as the world we knew,  changed. We discovered we could do without a lot of the items considered necessary.

If we wanted a fancy dinner, then we cooked, set a pretty table and enjoyed the process. Working from home became our holiday and we discovered immediate family could be annoying but mostly with our new and better attitudes, a heck of a lot of fun.

Christmas and gifts are synonymous and watching the purchase by the dollar full (I was tempted to say bucket full, but it’s not buckets that leave us in despair when we watch money disappear on things that we may or may not need for those doing the same for us) my cynical side arose again even as I watched Love Actually that night for the millionth time and cried. Consumerism makes me cynical because I think it is pushed on us.

Think about how much is fed into us by advertising and consider how Christmas fits in perfectly with their agenda – to get us to buy what they sell. If we go by Maslow, then somehow, magically, the bigger and better the gifts we give and receive, our self-actualisation is bolstered. After all, our basic needs have been gratified so it’s time to aspire to the next level. Somehow I do not think this is what Maslow was trying to say.

Tamanna Rumee at http://www.unsplash.com

But then, don’t we deserve a product that promotes our glory, the kind that espouses sex appeal, class, physical beauty, physical prowess and fame? Those things combined make us money, so they matter, right?

And so, I find myself dreading this Christmas more so than others. I don’t want to compensate for Covid and I don’t want to be compensated. Understanding we need to re-build our economy makes sense but the advertising bombardment doesn’t because I know it was like this pre and will be again after Covid. Gifts do not equate to peace, love and goodwill.

Do you think I’m wrong or selfish in my thinking? I don’t know but I do know I see young people not appreciating what they have unless it is a certain brand, and also failing to look after things. Then again, adults don’t seem to look after things either. Instead, we bandy around words like disposable and throwaway and gift suitability is measured in terms of  latest trend and must haves and it all ends up under the banner of my least favourite word –  entitlement. And then I think of the joy on the faces of children when they unwrap their gifts.

So, here we are with the gift giving season upon us and my biggest fear now is what I purchased may not please. Just yesterday I heard someone making fun of the idea that our elders still believe underwear to be a suitable gift. My mother, bless her her, used to do exactly that. One pair, a mixture of lace and colour and silky softness I had no way of affording. She gave me glamour when I had three small children, a shift worker husband and little money. I don’t want to be cynical because the truth is I love this season.

Laura Chouette at http://www.unsplash.com

What do I want for Christmas? I can answer that now. Gifts are nice but I want more. I want not to walk away from a table hungry for truth, for love, for friendship, goodwill and appreciation. These things are not disposable or throwaway and require little from us except our hearts. This is the table I wish we can all sit at because I know we would walk away satisfied. Selfishly I don’t just want it this Christmas, I want it forever.

I wish that for all of you out there and thank you for giving me your support and reading my work. May the new year bring you joy and may it last a lifetime.

Ci vediamo l’anno prossimo

Barb

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3 Comments

  1. There is a TV series I watched this year called the Kindness Diaries. It was touching when it showed that those who have the least are willing to share what they have, and are more appreciative of the stuff they have. I think it shows after we meet our basic material needs (ie. food, shelter, clothing) we don’t need much to live a happy life.

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