I found myself scrolling through pricey nativity sets last week, fretting over which one would provide the perfect aesthetic for the Pinterest inspiration dancing about in my head. Fretting, worrying, obsessing is how Christmas has entered into my mind these days after last year’s PCS-Mas and the fact Amazon Prime deliveries are far more than two days away when the address reads APO. The pressure to make everything perfect felt like a great weight on my shoulder and so I turned on Pandora to aid in my inspiration. One of the first songs to pop up was one I haven’t heard for several years: Rebel Jesus.
Suddenly I found myself back in the hutong of Beijing. Smiling faces playing mahjong on street corners entered my mind. Children taking great joy in the few toys they had, far more pleasure than my daughter takes in her beautiful and ample assortment of playthings. My mind wandered next to the old woman I have often passed on the streets in Korea, selling crops from tiny patches of land to ekk out a simple living. Pictures of the recent past in the country I currently call home appeared, many of which feature smiling faces despite the impoverished surroundings. And finally memories of my own Christmases pasts hit and with it guilt of what I’ve become and how I am trying to use consumerism to make something that cannot be purchased: Christmas spirit.
There was a time in the past where Pinterest was my inspiration because I had to make everything myself. It was an era in my life when my creativity was essential to stretch dollars and provide my family with a better standard of living by doing so. It was years when we had beautiful handmade holidays, a nicely furnished home, good clothing, and made many memories thanks to thrifting, side-of-the-road finds, and sheer elbow grease. It was a time when I learned a great deal about what was important in life, what truly mattered to me, and what talents I possessed.
In the years immediately following I hosted a book club meeting about a $100 dollar holiday, continued the handmade gift & decor tradition, and published writing advocating for the possibility of not just a simpler, more frugal holiday season but one that was better by virtue of these very things. And yet recently I have found myself lost and floundering. Why is this I wondered? Why is it so easy to fall off the path? Why am I taking the easy route of buying Stuff instead of creating?
I pondered this for several days and have my suspicions as to why. I also have my felting needles and wool roving that has now followed us to two houses and a daughter eager to make some handmade holiday magic of her own. I exchanged my guilt for a “crafternoon” and walked away with refreshed, back on the Rebel Christmas path, with a Korean Holy Family to add to Christmas displays when we decorate early next month. I cleaned up my pin boards to reflect my original intentions in using the website and deleted an Amazon cart full of Stuff. In so doing, I stopped the practical ends of an ugly snowball of Everything Wrong with American Christmas and it is my hope, eventually the feelings of greed, discontent, and status-seeking rearing up inside my faulty mortal heart.
But pardon me if I have seemed
To take the tone of judgement
For I’ve no wish to come between
This day and your enjoyment
In this life of hardship and of earthly toil
We have need for anything that frees us
So I bid you pleasure and I bid you cheer
From a heathen and a pagan
On the side of the rebel Jesus.