There's no escaping Christmas. It surrounds us. It chokes our little ears with pop singers wailing about the baby Jesus. Its blinking lights cause epilepsy-like seizures. It tempts us to say "Interact" when clearly there's no "t" at the end of that new word. Of course, we're a culture of consumption at all times of year - and I don't mean that thing that killed Emily Brontë out on the moors. We need whatever we're told to need. Can I live without moisturizer? I honestly don't think so. My eyes would powderize and fall out of my dried-out face, leaving only hollow sockets for recharging others' iPods.
But in December, the must-have impulses get frenetic. If I could just make enough money to buy this one cumin-scented aromatherapy from Kitchen Stuff Plus, I know we'd all be so much happier. Well, we wouldn't.
It's time to take back the season, to reclaim this holiday and make it the thing we tell ourselves it still is. It's ours as long as we're smiling at one another on the street (not in that creepy way - you know who you are) and trying to have exchanges that make us feel closer to the other person, conversations that aren't entirely about "what you're up to.'
Then there's the alt gift exchange. Make a list of your entourage and family (those you still speak to). Write their names on little pieces of paper and toss into a hat. Let everyone choose a recipient. Now the rules. Each gift box will include: one thing that's homemade (cookies, card, sweater, photo, beaded necklace, etc), a book by a Canadian author, a CD by a Canadian artist and a $25 donation to a charity you think your recipient would approve of. Or substitute for the donation the writing of a letter on behalf of your giftee to a company president or MP who you think needs to get a piece of your collective minds. When you deliver your presents, go over the letter together and adjust to your hearts' delight. Then pop in the mail.
Imagine if we all did this. What a wonderful world it would be.
I warn you in advance that family can be pissy and generally family-like about this whole approach, but try to push your case. They'll thank you when they start to see they're contributing to a better world.
And for everything else there's Mastercard.