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Mississauga News - Dec. 7, 2005 - By Therese Taylor - Guest column.
Preaching to the Converted?
Shhh! Don't mention to anyone that there's about a fortnight left. The panic is piercing. Trimming the house, inside and out, baking, shopping, parties to give and to go to, December arrives with flurries of stress.As the youngest of 10, I had always adored Christmas. Raised in the '60s in what was the countryside of Thornhill in those days, we didn't have many extras. My father never got the tree until Christmas eve. By then, the cost was reduced to free. At dusk, the focus was on trimming the Yuletide treasure with tinsel, popcorn, candy canes and lights. After a fish repast, we'd take the long dark trek through the crisp starry night and be overwhelmed by the incense of midnight mass. The gifts we were about to receive were simply new slippers and pajamas, but I never thought of myself as poor.
For the past several years, however, I have increasingly found shopping for my own kids, plus a dozen or more nieces and nephews who already seem to own the world, truly tiresome. Queuing for parking spaces and spewing carbon monoxide at jammed malls, seems the ultimate insult as you're about to blow $40 holes in your bank account. The eve and the day arrives with storms of gifts, the opening of one after another and another has seemed a terrible free-for-all of abundance and excess.
Like the icy mountain scene in the Polar Express, we've put the brakes down hard on gifts this year, but not on giving, explaining to our children that they already have enough stuff to amuse themselves through three childhoods. We've asked their generous aunts and uncles to think of our children fondly, and do something for a less fortunate child. There are so many in the world.
Locally in Mississauga, the Breakfast with Santa Foundation (breakfastwithsantainfo.ca) is a good place to start. Or there's The Mississauga News Santa Claus fund. Further afield, $35 will buy seeds and tools to feed four families with the promise of a yearly harvest. For the same amount, warm clothing can be wrapped around 25 children (worldvision.ca/gifts). A little more will stock a whole classroom with school supplies.
Not to be a total Scrooge with my own, Santa will of course sample my husband's wacky sense of a snack, like cereal with hot sauce, but our children have been told to ask for one gift only and elves don't make expensive electronics.
If they're good, their stockings will be stuffed with items like socks, a toothbrush, some candy and a tangerine, a delight I relished as a child, since it was the only one I'd taste for the season. Getting necessities is not really so dull. Besides, the prospect of a treat of chocolate to wake their mouths is enough to excite them.
For me, a pared-down shopping list means more time to bake goodies, listen to carols, watch good old Christmas specials, count my blessings and maybe even enjoy myself and my family. I'm even learning how to play Jingle Bells.
Therese Taylor is a freelance writer and a member of the Sierra Club of Canada.
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