Jingle bells, capitalism smells, patriarchy laid an egg.

My Christmas Memories.

The more I think about them, the more grateful I am. 

  • Sour cream cookies. 
  • Snow. Brisk nights. Clear skies. Stoking the fire.
  • Church. The advent calendar we made in Sunday school with a button on each day and the felt star that went from button-to-button day-to-day.
  • The white robes we wore that needed to be pinned up every year, and the tinsel angel halos for the Christmas pageant.
  • Each of us getting to put our own homemade ornaments on the tree, like the one I made with a mason jar lid, ribbon, my photo, and shellac. The artificial tree we all loved but have never been able to recreate since. The tiny plastic and glitter manger I adored.
  • Getting treats in our shoes on Saint Nick’s Day.
  • Construction paper loops ripped off one for each day of December.
  • Looking at Christmas lights. Singing songs. Listening to Monster's Christmas Mash on record in our attic full of mothballs. 
  • Getting home from school each day the week before Christmas to watch a half hour portion of Yogi’s First Christmas on WGN. 
  • Christmas pajamas. The stocking holders. Presents spilling out from under the tree. 
  • Sitting in messy circle on furniture from the 40s at my grandparents farm opening presents. The tree was often so big it was hard to pass into the living room from the kitchen. 
  • Driving home from the farm, my sisters asleep and my mom pretending to be, watching the farm and house lights few-and-far between, from the highway. There was  something so desolate about this, and I carry it with me still.
  • The possibility of wonder.
  • I was a sucker for that last one. 

What are yours?

Thinky Thoughts about the Holidays.

Howdy doozy.

Buckle in for a ride. 

Okay, I know most of you won’t read this, so scroll down for the links. 

Anyway, this is important. 

So read it.

I get it. You’re a grown person and this is way too long.

Do what you got to do.

——————————————————————————————————————————

The Holidays are extra in every way. 

People buy gifts for family and friends, for those they work with, for party hosts, for neighbors, for friend’s and the neighbor's dog. They attend fairs, festivals, and fundraisers to buy more stuff. They spend and overspend. (Don’t even get me started on Black Friday.)

The holidays are so extra many people diet before them in preparation to gain weight during them. They eat treats exclusive to the holidays, share meals laden with more sugar, fat, and heft than can be eaten over two days, and the leftovers are thrown out with the tree and wrapping rubble.

The holidays are so extra people must declutter after them to live in their houses. They have to fit three week’s worth of trash in one bin. They resolve to go to the gym in the new year.

The whole thing is nauseating.

I write this, and I LIKE CHRISTMAS. 

I like decorations, music, sour cream cut-out cookies, and prettily wrapped presents. I like craft fairs. I like that families get together and share traditions. I like Christmas Eve service even though I’m mostly agnostic. (Jesus is rad, and the rituals of the service remind me of childhood.) I even enjoy a few trips to the store to share the holiday mood with other shoppers.

The rest of it increases my already-spiked anxiety.

I just pulled out (well, Kevin did) the tubs of decorations in my garage. There was stuff in there I don’t even remember buying. There was enough in there to decorate five trees, like I have five tree skirts. What even? I have so much stuff, in fact, I had to repack it all because I was overwhelmed that I couldn’t get it done in one day and wasn’t sure where to put it all. I’ll come back to it. Maybe.

Last year, I went home to visit family in Iowa. There were SO.MANY.PRESENTS. So many I was sweating balls arranging them to spill out from under the tree so they looked insta-perfect. So many presents everyone was fed up before we finished opening them. A phase I have heard every year I have spent Christmas at my Mom’s house is: “get in here so we can finish this.” If you have to yell that it's too many presents.

The whole time I kept yelling “next year you can only give five presents each.” My family ignored me, as usual. #notokay

There is no end.

Postmodern Marxist critic Fredric Jameson wrote, “it has become easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.” 

I think about this all the time. Especially during the holidays.

Capitalism might be the flame, but we actively douse ourselves in gasoline and throw ourselves into it without questioning why we do it. 

And that’s just the holidays. 

The rest of the year is similar; we just spread it out more. We use stuff to commemorate every activity and to address our existential crises.

We use swag to reward people for existing. We use swag to drown our low self worth. We’re inundated with swag:

Easily ripped event bags. Plastic name tag holders tossed in the trash. Marathon t-shirts. Buttons no one wears, because why on earth would I need a pin from my kid's college that says, “Aztec Parent."  Subscription boxes for make-up and kid activities and dog toys. At events I take the paperwork and leave the swag behind. People ask me quite seriously if I'm sure. Does anyone need a thin, cheap bag that will rip before we get it home, and flimsy name lanyard that will go in the landfill?

No. No, they don’t.

Puke. 

Happy Holidays from me.

Things to Click On.

Now, the recommendations of stuff. I might be blowing my wad here, and I’ll be sending out the same list next year. Or, maybe the world will end and another list will be unnecessary. Hard to tell at this point.

Welcome to the Capitalism Part as You Likely Skipped all of the Above.

Excess is Bad for Our health.

On so many levels our stuff makes us unhappy and unhealthy.  Research demonstrates that women are particularly prone to the negative affects of clutter and stuff. In houses where one research study was conducted, women's cortisol levels—the stress and ptsd hormone—were found in higher quantities than in others in their houses. That is bad news.

I read an article recently about how many people come to the hospital around the holidays for all sorts of reasons.

And then there is the depression and anxiety. 

Children and adults are overwhelmed with Christmas excess as much as they might also like it.

As a kid one of my sensory overload strategies was to stack my gifts and put them away immediately. That was when my Dad's side of the family came over on Christmas Eve. There were times I stayed in the dark room until everyone left.

I understand this now as me managing my anxiety, though I didn't have a word for it then.

While I isolated myself from the celebrations, some of my cousins responded to the excess by flying  into such a frenzy that the gifts were often damaged in the unwrapping.

How good was that for either of us?

Give Them The Money Already. Spend Your Money on Human Kindness.

Sometimes people dislike when you donate to organizations in their name. Tough crap.

  • If you want to give in a child's name, put a few charity options on note cards, explain what each organization does, and let them choose where to donate.
  • There is so much horror happening at the border. The terror those children and families must feel is gut wrenching. At this point, the most feasible means of getting people out is to pay their bonds.
  • Blink Now is an amazing organization, and when you give to it you're giving to so many people and services. Founder Maggie was traveling through Nepal (when she was just out of high school), saw a need, and addressed it. She started adopting kids, built a school, built a health center, and is still enriching the community in so many ways. What Maggie and her team are doing in Nepal is next level. The have career training centers as well.
  • Kiva's small loan investment programs make an immediate impact on  individuals and families that allows them to create a lasting livelihood and improves their quality of life.
  • Bail Project for getting minor offenders out when their families don’t have enough.
  • Dance to be Free for treating trauma and abuse in women’s prisons.
  • Flint is still without safe drinking water; these filters can help.
  • Combating Indigenous Hunger

Money Not Credit

  • I include this every year, but NO GIFT CARDS. Giving gift cards to chain stores and eateries is a bad idea. A 2014 study showed that $10 billion in cards go unused every year, which means free money to corporations who don't even pay a living wage to their employees. There are certainly exceptions to this. My family will suck every penny out of those cards, yet others will misplace them before they can be used. Be deliberate in your choices.
  • Give cash to young people you're thinking of buying a gift card. They will get a lot of joy, and you're not giving to a corporate machine.
  • American's rack up a significant amount of debt during the holidays, and then spend all year paying it off (or not paying it off, and adding more debt to it the next year). Debt is a gift to no one, and anyone who thinks going into debt for gifts is necessary needs to rethink their values.
  • I ask you, who wins when you or a family member go into debt? It’s certainly not the people. The banks and credit card companies win. We don’t need to give them anymore.
  • Are we done yet?
  • This newsletter is just under 3000 words. That's way too long.
  • It took me forever to put this together.
  • I was thinking too many thinky thoughts about it and I couldn't stop.
  • And the anxiety. Well. That.
  • I have no idea why some of the links are blue and some are black. Just pretend I did it on purpose.
  • Umm...happy holidays?
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Cherri Porter is the Partly Cloudy Professor. If you're not already on this mailing list, click here to join.

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