Nov. 25th, 2015

windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (pentacle heart)
I wrote this back in 2012 for Nature Nurtured. That website will be dissolving into the ether in the not-too-distant future, so I wanted to preserve this here. I believe it more than ever.

I wish you a weekend filled with the peace and serenity of being with those who truly love and support you. <3

And, also, maybe some mashed potatoes. :D



Backing Away from Black Friday
Growing up, my parents had a gift closet. The storage cubby operated eleven months of the year as a wonderful lightless cave of flashlight shadow puppets, glow sticks and Lite Brite peg placement but in December, it became the domain of Santa’s helpers and therefore entirely off-limits to me and my older brother. Around that time, I’d be flipping through the catalogs of big chain toy stores and creating elaborate lists of what I wanted, starred and circled with varying degrees of excitement. We were a comfortably middle class household and Christmas, in addition to some quiet carols about Jesus and the presence of the very breakable nativity pieces on the sofa table, was mostly about toys descending en masse down our chimney. Our family photo albums have page after page of me showing off the latest arrivals—the Cabbage Patch doll that looked like me (and which my mom won a foot race against another shopper to snatch up), the big plastic playsets for my armies of plastic toys, and an ever-increasing library of video games for our Atari and, later, Nintendo systems. We had so much that our spare bedroom was a dedicated toy room.

That sort of consumer-driven holiday seemed perfectly natural to me. As a teenager, I spent hours in the mall (and an impressive amount of discretionary income) to ensure that I’d bought a lotion and bubble bath basket, a classic red sweater, a heating pad, a reading light, a gift card, or somethinganything—for every member of my family and my circle of friends and acquaintances. Only a Scrooge would forego that time-honored tradition of giving!

As a pagan parent, though, I’m beginning to doubt the whole endeavor. I’m the sucker who cries at every ‘spirit of Christmas’ movie that’s ever been created and yet, I wonder what the myth of Santa does to the hearts of children whose parents and caretakers can’t afford piles of presents. Do they worry, even subconsciously, that they’ve ended up on Santa’s naughty list when they get a package of dollar store crayons instead of the bike they’d asked him for? Do they feel abandoned by the Divine when the all-knowing, all-seeing jolly old elf fails to appear at their home? Can Santa’s largesse feel exclusionary to those who witness classmates bragging about what they got under the tree? These are questions I’ve really struggled with.

I tried keeping Santa out of our home, along with Christianity, and I discovered just how omnipresent the guy in the red suit is. He seeped into my son’s life when I wasn’t looking—in stores, on packaging, and even through playground conversations with other, Santa-savvier toddlers and preschoolers. I’d loved the part the Christmas myth had played in my own childhood—was I right to try and bar it from my son’s? Maybe some happy middle ground was called for.

I’m ever a work-in-progress when it comes to parenting according to my values as a pagan, living mindfully enough that my choices line up with my beliefs. Some years, I’m better at avoiding the trap of heightened name-brand consumption and some years, it is too tempting and feels infinitely easier to visit Target to buy something mass-produced for every loved one on my list. I don’t always meet my goal of giving thought-filled gifts of true value and significance. I don’t always get around to making something or finding just the right artisan to purchase from, but there is one simple thing that I’ve done that makes sure I start the holiday season with an act of powerful intention.

I’ve ditched Black Friday completely–that day of attractive sales, early hours, and shopping mania that occurs right after Thanksgiving’s feasting. I don’t read the sale flyers. I ignore the ‘door buster deals’ and the free-with-purchase snow globes and lap blankets and dancing, burping reindeer toys. I choose not to participate in the frenzy of buying. I’ve happily opted out of the whole experience. Instead, I enjoy the entire holiday weekend with my family in the cozy comfort of our own home. I have enough to be thankful for without needing to fill the car with more. I embrace the holiday by decorating my house, putting out corn for the deer, and watching those Santa films that make me cry instead of waiting restlessly outside a store to snag the latest in things-I’m-told-I-can’t-live-without. I choose to slow down, instead of speed up, and to give myself the chance to make different, more soul-fulfilling choices in how I express my love, my thanks, and my friendship to those around me. I want my son to experience winter as something sacred, spiritual, and special. I want Yule to be the warmth of a shared meal, the dawn of newfound hope and goodwill, the crackle of a comforting fire and the solidarity of a renewed family bond. Those are the things I’ve never felt amidst the loud bustle and over-bright displays of retailers vying for my money.

I wonder if it’d do us all a world of good if we, as a community, backed away from Black Friday…if we dumped the catalogs into the recycling bins and started from scratch with our children on their winter wish lists. What do they really want? Do they want a Dora the Explorer backpack or do they really want to go on adventures in the out of doors? Do they want a karaoke set or do they really want a way to feel their voices are heard? Do they want the latest greatest video game system or just a way to spend time together with someone? Do our loved ones really need whatever the big companies are selling this year—or do they simply need to know that we value their place in our lives?

In my family, we’ve chosen to believe in the spirit of Santa. He isn’t at the mall, for us, but rather part of our home, our hearth, and our hearts. He doesn’t buy the magic he distributes each year—he makes it.

This year, I’m attempting to do the same. I aspire to staying out of the big stores and making different choices with my money and my time. I might not succeed, entirely, but I’ll start by embracing Thanksgiving weekend as an opportunity to spend a gloriously long weekend at home with my family and all that we have, already, to be thankful for.



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