By Amy Brevan
Lucy Van Pelt: I know how you feel about all this Christmas business, getting depressed and all that. It happens to me every year. I never get what I really want. I always get a lot of stupid toys or a bicycle or clothes or something like that.
Charlie Brown: What is it you want?
Lucy Van Pelt: Real estate.
As someone with little patience for television ads, junk mail, online pop-ups and telemarketers, I get particularly irritated by the commercial bombardment that occurs as the winter holidays approach. They start earlier every year, even before Halloween, with their noisy television commercials and flashy online advertisements. Nothing turns me off faster than big corporations with huge marketing budgets hawking merchandise this time of year.
A Charlie Brown Christmas(TM) first taught me years ago, Christmas is not about giving or receiving the coolest new gadget or competing with other stressed-out parents for the hottest toy on the market. But the marketing geniuses behind the world’s biggest businesses must have missed this 1965 children’s classic. The holidays are big business, and as so many families are struggling financially in 2009, they’re working overtime to make sure we see and hear all they have to offer.
Most people enjoy the genuine tradition of giving gifts at the holidays. There is nothing more satisfying than finding that perfect gift to show your love and gratitude for another human being. The challenge is to remember that the smallest gifts – a child’s artwork, kind words on a written notecard or a homemade meal – sometimes mean more than those items in the glossy Sunday newspaper inserts.
Like millions of others, this year my holiday budget is considerably smaller than in the past. I plan to make meaningful gifts at home and purchase others from artisans in my community. I also chose to shop at an independent toy store nearby for the children in my life. Although I may have saved money at a big box store, I bought fewer items, but higher quality toys, while supporting my own local economy.
Even though my intention was to buy fewer gifts for my kids this year, I still struggle to end the shopping habit once it has started. My nearly five-year-old is absorbing the commercialism like a sponge, often pointing at classmates’ sparkly shoes or beautiful dolls and demanding I add these things to her wish list for Santa. I try to keep reminding her that Santa cannot bring everything on the list – a good lesson for myself as well.
Santosha, an ancient Sanskrit word meaning contentment, is found in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 2.42: “contentment produces happiness . . .”
Remembering to be content with what we have, for ourselves and others, rather than desiring what we do not, is something to keep in our hearts throughout the season.