Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Dysfunctional Christmas

There are only two shopping days left until Christmas and I haven’t bought a single present yet.

I haven’t left my shopping until the last minute because I’m lazy. No, the reason I haven’t bought anything is because I was under the mistaken impression that my family had agreed to a gift-free Christmas this year.

Turns out my family abandoned its goal to de-commercialize Christmas and forgot to mention it to me. So now we’re having a typical Christmas with presents under the tree and I have two days left to fall in line.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. My sister Hilary sent out an email back in October suggesting that we take the money we would have spent on each other at Christmas and donate it to charity instead.

I thought it was a great idea and so did everyone else (I have four sisters, one brother and two parents and getting us to agree on anything is a pretty major accomplishment).

A gift-free Christmas was a no-brainer for me. I’d rather spend my time in Toronto bonding with friends and family than rushing through crowded stores buying crap that no one really wants or needs. Forgoing mindless consumerism in favour of giving to the less-fortunate seemed richer in meaning and closer to the true spirit of the season.

I should have known Buy Nothing Christmas was too good to be true. Things started to unravel in November. The first dissenter was my brother.

“I’m expecting gifts from you guys,” he wrote. “Forget this secular far-left nonsense.”

My sister Jane was the next one to crack.

“I like to give gifts at Christmas,” she wrote. “I am planning to give everyone gifts. There will be presents from me under the tree. Do as you like . . .”

I tried to get everyone back on board, sending out emails saying that this isolationist behaviour undermined the spirit of a gift-free Christmas. My mom and three of my sisters were with me. But my dad, my brother and my sister Jane were sticking to their guns and buying presents whether we wanted them or not.

The family was split. But at least four of us were still willing to forgo a traditional Christmas. Or so I thought.

I arrived in Toronto this weekend only to discover that everyone had caved and bought presents. My sister Hilary and I were the only ones who stuck to the original plan. Neither of us bought anything and now we don’t know what to do.

We don’t want to look like Scrooges but we don’t want to buy a lot of useless junk either. We’ve only got two days left to figure out how to make everyone happy on Christmas morning without resorting to store-bought gifts.

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