Christmas, when broke

Say your purchasing power disappears.  Or say they pass a law that forbids store bought Christmas gifts.  Would you be able to fill that space under the tree?  I couldn’t.  It seems that I cannot make, or give anything, without burning cash.

Perhaps I can give people “time”.   Stick an IOU under the tree, saying something like, “Mom, I promise to spend fifteen minutes every day of the next year, cleaning the bathroom”. That is a useful gift, but rather boring.  You want gifts with a little whimsy.

I could cook.  I recently learned to bake a potato; a thrilling business.  I could wake up at 3:00 AM on Christmas morning, go out and dig fresh potatoes out of the hard winter ground, stick them in the fireplace, take them out just before the family wakes, wrap them individually in brightly colored leaves I saved from the fall … this is crazy.

The simple truth is that, if I were broke, I would not know how to participate in Christmas.

However, there may be another angle to this story.  Stipulate that no material goods must exchange hands.  Have all money changers shutdown shop for the season.  What will remain of Christmas?  Only Christ, I think.

A Christmas that is strictly a religious event, presents a different kind of challenge to folks like me, agnostic to my dying day, and multicultural, citizen of the world types, like my roommate/cousin who is arguably more religious than me (you should see him at the temple), yet is enthusiastically considering a Charlie Brown Christmas tree this year.

Interestingly, I am more comfortable with this prospect.  I don’t have to belong to your club.  If it is important to you, it is important to me, because, well, you are important to me.  I’ll wish you Merry Christmas, and happily help you celebrate Christmas.  I have some practice with this kind of thing.  Why, only a few days ago, I schlepped all the way to New Jersey for a cousin’s baby shower. Every cultural element central to a baby shower is foreign to me – motherhood, fatherhood, child birth.   What business do I have at a baby shower?   Yet, I show up, lapping up the welcome that people give me, eating the glorious food, staying out of trouble, and greasing the wheels in any way I can.  And it works.  People keep inviting me back.  I can do exactly that at Christmas, or Eid, or Hanukkah, for that matter.