Monday, December 21, 2009

In Praise of Snow Days

What a cliche to say that the holidays are hectic, and yet, although I vow every year to simplify and scale back, the logistics of coordinating with family and friends in eight states makes it tough.

The other night Ellen brought a piece about holiday shopping and materialism to our writing group, and in discussing it we agreed that even in this economic downturn all of us are lucky enough to have everything we need and most of what we want. The next day, Ellen and I were talking, and she made the point that there are very few true luxuries left. For example, shrimp used to be a big splurge when we were kids, but now aquacultural farms in Asia make it very affordable. It's a similar situation with shoes and jeans and shirts and even furniture. Like many in the American middle class, we replace things when they are out of style, or when we're tired of them, not when they wear out, and we run out and buy whatever we "need" whenever we "need" it.

What can you give the person who is fortunate enough to live with such plenty? Holiday shopping becomes a challenge, and so we exchange lists and then gifts, or cut out the first step and give gift cards. It feels like something is lost in this practical arrangement, but the alternative is to give more stuff, perhaps as unwanted as it is unneeded.

I don't know what the solution is to our stuff addiction. When I started this entry I only wanted to say what a blessing the last couple of days have been-- the weather has kept us home, slowing that seemingly inevitable hectic holiday pace, and allowing us to relax and enjoy the season.

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