Change of season….
December 11, 2010
One of the “pros” of raising my children in New Zealand is the substantial social difference with materialism. “Over the top” is not glamorized in New Zealand. Bigger is not better. If you get a new car, people look at you with pity. (Couldn’t keep the old one running-eh?) Same with toasters or couches (especially couches). Making due with less and being creative is much more revered than simply using money to buy stuff.
My young family immigrated with 8 suitcases, most of which contained my daughters’ favorite things. So when the first Christmas rolled around, their dad and I felt justified buying lots of things we thought they needed. We took a day off to go shopping in town, traveling far to find a mall. (In California, I used to spend most days at a mall, and a couple of days a year at the beach, now that scenario is reversed.) Anyway, we went to a mall. We shopped and shopped. On our way back on the car ferry, (I live on an island) we looked at our car overflowing with bags and realized we would have to hide it all before we drove up to the house. Luckily, we had a luggage shell on the top of our old land rover (ten years old- still considered pretentious). My ex-husband started moving packages into the carrier. One bag, two bags, three bags and so on. People from other cars started watching us move all of this stuff. Dave finally told the new audience that he was hiding the packages so the kids wouldn’t see them. Then he continued to shift the toys. “How many kids do you have?” he was asked. Suddenly we became quite self conscious. We looked at each other, then he calmly lied.. “five”.
Our second or third New Zealand Christmas my second daughter called her friend to see what she got for Christmas. After she listened to the short list she said,”OHH, You must have not been very good!”.
Fast forward to now. Our lives have changed dramatically. My new partner is a practical English immigrant. He makes his living as an environmentalist and sustainability consultant. We have a four-year old daughter who has never seen a toy commercial or Santa impersonator. (Please don’t feel sorry for her, she spends every day at the beach frolicking, playing in tide pools and climbing trees.) Her presents this year will consist of hand me down toys and a new dress from trademe (NZ ebay).
My teenagers have adapted beautifully to the cultural differences. This year, my eldest child will get things she needs for her Tahiti exchange 3 days past Christmas. They understand that I will pay for experiences, not for cheap items destined for the landfill. My middle child has instructed me to get her clothes, only clothes. that she picks out. She has everything else that most Kiwi kids have. Mailing gifts has been cost prohibitive both directions, so I don’t exchange presents overseas. James and I are both self-employed, so there will be no office parties or mandatory gift giving.
So our experience this year will be so much more relaxed.We have kept some traditions and developed our own southern hemisphere rituals. We make cookies with friends and give them to neighbors. I still buy my children new pajamas and a book for Christmas Eve. I started a tradition of a christmas ladder verses a christmas tree a few years ago for financial and environmental reasons. And now having a decorated ladder in my living room with bathing suits and beach towels a simple day at the beach with friends and our blended family seems normal to me.
So as I peruse the internet, and read about the frantic nature of the season, I can relate to it all as a memory, like a dream or a movie, but it doesn’t remotely resemble my reality of end of the school year picnics and summertime camping. So I plan on relaxing even more this year, letting go of all of the “musts” and “shoulds”. Relaxing into my own version of the holiday. What about you? Are your holidays getting bigger or smaller?