Monday, December 27, 2010

The Gift of Extravagance

When I was a little kid, all the stores near my small hometown had those cold, bundled-up Salvation Army bell ringers at Christmas. And every year, on one of those walks past them into the store, my Mom would stop, open her change purse, and dump its entire contents into the red metal can. They clanked loudly for quite a while as they all poured in. We stood there for a moment and then exchanged Merry Christmases with the bell ringer. And I felt rich.

When you put aside the religious aspects of Christmas, I think the main gift we receive from this annual tradition is a break from our normal routine. Once a year, it’s okay to be excessive, to overindulge, to be overly demonstrative.

At Christmas, we decorate our lives with extravagance. Our houses are more inviting with twinkling lights. We wear hideous red sweaters and put a bow around the dog’s neck. We have an excuse to shop and to eat special foods. We change our clothes, our houses, our food, our social activities, even the music we listen to. Is there anything that doesn’t change at Christmas?

Christmas is the only time when we send cards with good wishes to everyone we know. We give gifts to the important people in our lives. We take off work, travel to visit family, and host huge festive parties. The Holidays mean we all come together.

What would life be like if we didn’t have a yearly reason to break the routine?

My husband and I won’t take down our Christmas decorations until after the New Year, to prolong this season as long as possible. Then the house will go back to normal. But then the everyday routine will be a little more special, because of what we just experienced. Because we were allowed a little extravagance, because of Christmas.

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