Unplugging the Santa Machine can lead to happier holiday season

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As I write this, it’s only 20 days until Christmas. I can already feel my body and mind tensing up, knowing that I haven’t started my shopping, newsletter, cards or planning lodging, travel and meals. Sometimes I think it’s all too much.

There may be some aspects of the commercial celebration of Christmas that are satisfying but almost everyone (especially my husband and I) longs for a simpler, more meaningful way of honoring the season.

In a book called “Unplug the Christmas Machine,” written by Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock Staeheli, the authors talk about how to ward off the commercial excesses of the holidays and create an authentic, joyful celebration in tune with the unique needs and wishes of your family.

Reported in a story from “World News with Diane Sawyer,” the average American will spend $700 on holiday gifts and goodies this year, totaling more than $465 billion, the National Retail Federation estimates. In fact, it sometimes seems to me that commercialism has become our most important tradition.

Some of the common problems people have during the holiday season are being pressured by all the work involved in carrying off traditional family celebrations, worrying about holiday bills, concerned about surviving Christmas after a loss - death, divorce, loss of a job and being lonely, as some people have no family nearby with whom to celebrate.

What each of us needs — and wants — is an authentic, joyful celebration that reflects our unique situations without all the commercial excesses. What this often boils down to is some plain, old NOSTALGIA — a wish for an old-fashioned Christmas, one untouched by the commercialism we see today. Do we really need to hear Christmas songs and have Christmas inventory out in stores before Thanksgiving is celebrated?

In many ways, SANTA has come to be a symbol of the commercial machine of Christmas. The key to unplugging the machine is knowing what it is that you really want. For many people, this can be summed up in a “… wish to end the year with a festive of renewal that rekindles our faith, brings us closer to the people we care about and brings light and laughter to the dark days of winter,” said Robinson and Staeheli.

So how do you stop the Santa Machine from running your life? Although traditions are important, it may be necessary to be selective rather than continually adding on. Sit down with your family so everyone is involved and talk about what activities are most important during the season.

The most popular items discussed are having a relaxed and loving time with the family, having realistic expectations about gifts, planning an evenly paced holiday season and truly celebrating family traditions.

When people are given an opportunity to fantasize about a perfect holiday, most come down to common cores — simple gifts, natural decorations, a fire, traditional food, leisurely schedules, music and an emphasis on family activities. “Part of the reason more people aren’t living out their Christmas dreams is that everywhere they turn, they are encouraged to make Christmas as expensive, elaborate and busy as possible,” said the authors.

For more information on how to stop the Santa Machine, call the Elbert County Extension Office at 303-621-3162.

Elbert County Extension is a cooperative effort between CSU Extension and Elbert County government. Sheila G. Kelley is the Colorado State University extension director for Elbert County. She can be reached at sheila.kelley@colostate.edu.

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