How to survive a presentless Christmas

In this capitalistic world, it’s hard to survive a presentless Christmas, followed by a defunct Boxing Day shopping spree.

This year I’ve been unusually po’ (thanks Acadia) and thus had no money to buy Christmas presents for pretty much, well, anyone.  Even then it was questionable as to whether I was going to make my car payment.  And don’t even let me begin about when the wolves from Mastercard and Visa are probably going to howl.  (Can we re-evaluate minimum payment, please?)

This is what "no" presents looks like in the Western World.

Yes, as any university student knows, the end of December means the student loan funds have looooooooooooooong fizzled out, and the new installment doesn’t come until school begins in January.  And as for budgeting, don’t get me started.  You can’t budget easily when you don’t have enough to begin with.

So something has to give.  And this year it was a present-filled Christmas.

Considering the economy is pretty much in the flush for many of us, it wasn’t hard to convince family and friends to not exchange gifts this year (thanks underemployment.)

However, it sucks to be out shopping for the few things you do need while yearning to buy this! buy that! for people you love.

Carts full of Made in Taiwan toys whoosh past.  Grocery carts strain under the weight of cheesecakes and shrimp rings.

Even holiday decorations are costly.  As you can see from the picture, the budget Christmas tree was a small Norfolk pine, which cost $12.44 at Wal-Mart.  Normally I support our local tree farmers by buying local, but I need a new tree stand and I refuse to buy anything but the big $50 iron rock that would hold a Boston Christmas tree steady in a blizzard (because it beats nailing your tree to the floor; been there, done that.)

But when it comes down to it, even when you have little money for Christmas in the Western World, Christmas still comes.

The fridge was still stocked with juices and yogurts, and a few blocks of cream cheese for holiday treats.  (Actually, I got one of those red velvet cheesecakes from President’s Choice because that damned commercial brainwashed me until I walked past the grocery freezer and realized I needed a red velvet cheesecake… no, I MUST HAVE A RED VELVET CHEESECAKE!)

And as for the no presents dictum, there were family who didn’t always obey (thankfully there were back up presents to give out.)  The cool thing was the presents were of treats I wouldn’t normally buy because they’re luxury items.  (Like Second Cup coffee beans… nom, nom, nom.)

I also got a few as a result of my first teaching practicum, including one from a student which came with a thank you card (seriously one of the best gifts ever!)

Pets are the gifts that keep on giving. Especially if you don't spay or neuter them. (FYI: Jack's magnificent pedigree is only available through cloning now, as he has been "altered" as they say euphemistically on

And of course, Jack the cat is a gift that keeps on giving.  He was adopted three Christmases ago and he is still a doll, curling up next to you, crawling up your leg to be held, waiting patiently to go to bed with you (ah, the ideal man!)

And then, if all goes well, you get to be with family and friends!  Christmas night, I was delighted to hug a cousin who hasn’t been home for Christmas in 14 years.

I do have a moral to this post.

Christmas isn’t about gifts.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’d like a Wii or iPhone.  I really need an exercise bike (get the Wii Fit!) or an elliptical.

However, as you discover, Christmas isn’t just about gifts, about the most stocking presents; it’s about family and food (and cheesecake.)  It’s about hugging your loved ones and sharing in their presents and joys.

When anyone asks me how my holidays were, I will say, great.  And if they care to ask if Santa brought me lots of presents, I will have to nod and say, “Lots.”


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