Debunking the Perfect Family, Perfect Holiday Myth

December 16, 2016

Christmas is the time of year when we’re all supposed to be filled with joy, happiness and goodwill toward our fellow man, including even strangers. But this year, things are little different.  As they say on the street, many people ain’t feeling that. Why? Well, some would say it has a lot to do with a certain bellicose billionaire who will sadly soon become our commander and chief. 

To be sure, I’m no Trump lover, but even I would say that’s only part of it.  There are bigger issues for a lot of people—it’s what I call “perfect family, perfect holiday” myth. You see, advertisers, marketers and Hollywood producers—to sell more products and pump up ratings—create this idyllic, airbrushed picture of life that’s impossible for the average person to live up to.  Turn on the television, and you’ll likely see some handsome husband with pearly white teeth handing his beautiful wife the keys to a brand-new bow wrapped luxury car.  Switch over to the Hallmark Channel, which I admit is one of my guilty pleasures, and you’ll likely see a movie about some Brady Bunch like family that overcomes a holiday calamity—all in the nick of time so the kids can still open their expensive gifts on Christmas day!

If only life were like that instead of the constant daily grind many of us face.  For many, there are no lavish holiday parties, or six foot beautifully decorated Christmas trees, or new cars wrapped in bows bow, or perfect spouses and families. Nor are there exotic ski trips or nights spent snuggling by a fireplace drinking expensive red wine. For struggling single parents, the unemployed or those at or below the poverty line, that fantasy lifestyle is out of reach. 

So, it’s hard not to have the Christmas blues when your pockets are empty and your family is struggling, and yet at the same time you’re being bombarded with slickly produced television ads and movies that present a luxurious, yuppified vision of life.

But just because you don’t own a Lexus and a two-story house in the suburbs, or just because you husband isn’t the CEO of Google, or your son or daughter on the Honor Roll, it doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate and experience the joys of the holiday season.

You just need to remind yourself that the things you see on television are scripted and don’t reflect most people’s reality.  Like the notion that the holidays must include purchasing expensive gifts and exchanging them with friends and co-workers– some of whom you don’t even like. You need to squash that idea!  Your true friends will be happy with a simple greeting card and knowing that you thought enough about them to buy it.

Also, Christmas trees are nice, and I grew up with a tradition of having them, but there are other inexpensive ways for your family to mark the holiday, including making your own ornaments and gifts. You can dip pine cones in gold paint and place them on side tables or use them to fill baskets or bowls; When I was small, my aunt taught me how to use brown paper bags as wrapping paper. One time, I took my kids to the $.99 store and we bought tin cans which we filled with homemade cookies. There are lots of ways to get creative that won’t empty your wallet or purse.

Finally, children are much smarter and more perceptive than we give them credit for.  They might not entirely understand your household economics, but they have an intuitive sense of what you can and cannot afford.  They know when they are loved, cared for and protected, which means much more to them than a shiny new bike.   

So, this year, let’s forget about all the consumerism and mass-marketing of Christmas.  Let’s return to what the spirit of the holiday is really all about:

“Christmas is the spirit of giving without a thought of getting. It is happiness because we see joy in people. It is forgetting self and finding time for others. It is discarding the meaningless and stressing the true values. “

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