As many people come off the high of the Thanksgiving holiday and the shopping experiences of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, I am spending my time contemplating if all the holiday hustle and bustle is worth it.
I didn't feel compelled to stand on the side of Walmart over the workers who have been striking for a living wage. I didn't feel called to leave my bed to buy my kids a ton of cheap plastic toys made in overseas sweatshops as a sign of how much I love them.
The holiday season has different meaning for me for many reasons.
I long ago rejected the need to join other people and storm through stores for stuff I don't need. This was pretty easy to give up since from age 16 until my late 20s, I, like most low-wage workers, worked every Black Friday. When I didn't, I was likely too tired or too broke to care about hitting the streets to shop in the wee hours of the morning.
When my oldest daughters were young, we did the big holiday. We had a huge tree and a room so full of gifts it took them more than Christmas Day to open. Even last year, my living room was quite full of gifts.
This year, due to finances and a reevaluation of priorities, my family and I will opt out of "traditional" Christmas altogether. No extra big dinner, no big gifts, just handmade exchanges between each other and things we need.
This official change came from a family meeting over what to do for Christmas and Kwanzaa this year. One of my teen-aged children said: "I don't want anything. We need lots of stuff but the things we want can wait. All I want is that you are feeling better and we are together." It is funny how quickly children change your perception.
For many families like mine, going into debt so we can take part in mass consumerism to prove we love each other is a luxury we cannot afford. It's also a value I don't feel compelled to fight for anymore.
It's not that my kids don't want nice, new things. We have had many big fabulous Christmas holidays with big trees and lots of gifts. We have also been homeless and living in a motel during the holiday. I have been fortunate that great loving people have helped us through the lean holidays and made sure my kids had the Christmas that pop culture says they have to have.
But the sum of these experiences is that we aren't buying it anymore.