Are you like me? Is there a bit of Scrooge, or Grinch, in you that starts to grumble about this time in the season, as the credit card balance grows? And maybe you’ve had a couple of unexpected bills mixed in there with the fewer Christmas cards that this technological age encourages? Perhaps a tax bill that wasn’t supposed to come till next year? A leak under the motor of your aging vehicle that turns out to be a major problem with the transmission?
Oh, and there’s this statistic for us Canadians. Do you know that our Christmas spending is expected to be almost double what Americans will spend? According to www.americanresearchgroup.com, Americans will spend $929 for gifts, up from $882, or about 5%, in 2015. According to www.theglobeandmail.com, Canadians will spend $1810, up 12% from $1610 in 2015. Is it because the US dollar is worth that much more than our darn loonie? Are Canadians more generous? Or is shopping just that much more economical in the US? But remember, these are polls, estimates and random averages based on surveys and I don’t know about you, but I have a Scrooge-Grinch attitude about surveys too. A waste of time I figure, especially since we know how damn accurate they are after Trump’s big win, right?
Anyway, money is just money. As we know from my blog Fiction Or Nonfiction? and Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari, it’s the biggest fairy tale ever told. But, geez, it can make one feel sick to one’s stomach from time to time, can’t it? It can cause arguments, between friends and family members. Everyone has a different emotional response to money, and different emotional responses to it throughout one’s lifetime I’m finding out.
Consequently, I’ve compiled a list of Christmas gifts and activities that don’t cost one expensive US dollar nor one cheap loonie (insert loon call here):
*spend time in nature – walk, jog, skate (there are lots of free outdoor rinks, borrow skates if you don’t have any), swim in the ocean if you get to go south
*acknowledge and appreciate your body & mind – Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re of sound mind. Your body? Maybe it needs some physical attention? Maybe you have an illness, temporary or fatal? (As the band Dawes points out on the title track of their latest album, “we’re all gonna die”.) But think about the odds that you are even here, reading this blog. In A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson puts it this way: “Not one of your pertinent ancestors was squashed, devoured, drowned, starved, stranded, stuck fast (immobile), untimely wounded, or otherwise deflected from its life’s quest of delivering a tiny charge of genetic material to the right partner at the right moment in order to perpetuate the only possible sequence of hereditary combinations that could result – eventually, astoundingly, and all too briefly – in you.”
*stop and really smell, okay see, the Christmas lights – Didn’t put any up? Can’t afford to? Can’t be bothered? Well, there’s your tree, if you do that. And there are free displays everywhere, from that Clark Griswold neighbour to the downtown park. Stop, see, enjoy. Drink them in. Also, think about a person whose sight is diminished, or even vanished. How would you describe the lights to this person?
*visit the local library – a cornucopia of knowledge and entertainment awaits
*visit the local art gallery – a cornucopia of visual pleasure awaits. Again, if you know someone who is blind, how would you describe your favourite painting? Why is it your favourite? What paintings or objects don’t you like? Why? This experience helps you to know thyself.
*observe the magic in a child’s eyes – Kids are open, honest. When they feel pleasure at play, or at receiving a gift, it’s deep, real.
*feel joy – In Canada and the US, the majority of us aren’t starving and have never endured the feeling of starvation. We have a roof over our head – a fine one indeed for most of us. Clean sheets to sleep in at night. Running water. A free country to live in, in which to find meaningful work, hopefully, and express ourselves. All things to be joyful for.
*feel love – for family, friends. Shake hands and hug with purpose. Try to have deep, meaningful conversations. Ask. Listen.
*believe – in the miracle of existence, in the miracle of the season (whatever that means to you), in the miracle of life as it unfolds around you daily and in your continuous quest to uncover your best self.