Sunday, December 5, 2010

Ready made Christmas

I was driving past a garden shop the other day and couldn't help but notice the Christmas trees displayed out front, already decorated with colorful lights, ready to go.
Thomas Kinkade Pre-Lit Pull-Up Christmas Tree: Wondrous Winter by The Bradford ExchangeWhatever happened to the joy of setting up and decorating the tree with your family, next to a roaring fire, with carols playing, and sipping hot apple cider?  Will this become a thing of the past?  Are we in SUCH a hurry about our lives that we don't have time for this, but still want the satisfaction of a fully decorated tree in the home?

Okay then, let's imagine this one step further.  Ready made Christmas family celebration without any of the actual work (for a fee of course)!  You just show up at the designated location and watch your holiday unfold.  Your "family" will already be there (all actors, of course), the loving and sweet Grandma filling the home with delicious smells, the sister bragging about her new job, the uncle busy on his cell phone, the dad arguing politics, the cousin who stands up and announces he's gay, the mother who quickly changes the topic.  It will all be there, completely realistic experience!  You will even exchange gifts, which means you get to have another useless decorative trinket that will hide away in your closet for the next several years before you finally have the nerve to throw it out.  No need to actually plan any sort of Christmas get together, or go through the hassle of rearranging furniture in your home to accomodate a big tree.

For the record, I love Christmas.  I love the traditions, I love the family get togethers, I love the food.  I even love the exchange of gifts.  Shopping for people- now that's another story.  Last year with me being very very pregnant and therefore slow and inefficient, I couldn't perform my usual marathon mall bonanza search for gifts.  Instead we opted to collect ingredients to make a homemade collection of pickled vegetables, peppermint bark, and chocolate port wine sauce to give to our loved ones.  It involved a bit of planning, one busy day in the kitchen, and another busy day of wrapping and mailing the presents.

 clean jars, waiting to be filled

 torshi in the making

melted chocolate for bottom layer of bark
 (yes, that's my ginormous 8 months pregnant belly you see holding up the bowl)

4 pounds of peppermint bark

The results were fantastic, and I don't think we can ever really go back.  The advantages are many, and work to greatly reduce the level of stress that has unfortunately become expected this time of year:
- less brainpower spent trying to guess what random object your friend/family doesn't already have but really wants.
- more time at home, no time at the busy malls full of pushy salespeople.
- having presents on hand to give to those you might normally not think of gifting, but in the right moment occurs to you that yes, your faithful gardener deserves a little Christmas cheer, so here you go!
- the gift receivers really appreciate the personal touch, and get a kick out of having a reusable keepsake (ie the jars with personalized labels once held pickled veggies, and voila becomes pencil holder).
- saving tons of money, who doesn't love that?

If you want to go this route, you won't have to look hard to find many many suggestions to help get you started.  Just type in "DIY Christmas present" into Google and see what turns up.
Here's a great list I found to help get you started:

The peppermint bark I made with inspiration from Paula Deen's recipe:
Which by the way is SUPER easy to make if you follow the recommendation of one of her commenters and use the microwave to melt down the chocolate instead of the crazy double boiler method.  I added a bottom layer of dark chocolate to counter the white peppermint chocolate taste, and it was oh so yummy.

Please consider doing you and your family a huge favor and do away with the materialistic aspect of Christmas.  Save your energy and money for spending quality stress-free (well, as close as possible) time together.  Do still share in the spirit of giving, but turn away from the mall or the megastores in favor of something homemade, homegrown, or otherwise personally created by you.  You will enjoy a sense of accomplishment that cannot be bought, find peace in your efforts, and bring a smile of appreciation to the person who will know that a little piece of you comes with that gift.

You may even be inspired to give a Gift of Nothing, like in this adorable classic children's story by Patrick McDonnell.  The dog already has it all, so after an exhausting search, his cat friend decides to give simply an empty box, which he says is "nothing... but me and you."  Which is the best there is, afterall.

Don't believe in this guy!

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