Sunday, December 8, 2013

'Tis the Season!

Once again, just like with Thanksgiving, the holiday season has snuck up on us, simply because it just does not feel like Christmas or winter, what with the palm trees and blooming flowers and the warm, sunny weather. To get into a "Christmas mood" and to remind myself of the upcoming holiday, I started playing Christmas music. Then, over the weekend, we finally got a tiny, 2-foot Christmas tree and holiday lights just to bring a little bit of the holiday ambiance to our house. We also will try to go ice skating (yes, there are ice skating rinks here...year round), make some ornaments, and drink hot chocolate...with the air conditioner cranked up, of course!

Despite the lack of holiday cheer here, this month will nevertheless be just as busy as it usually was in the U.S. Even though Christmas is not generally celebrated here, the school does put on quite a few holiday/end-of-semester events. This past weekend, there was a black-tie holiday gala at the Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok (which we decided to skip). And this week, we have an end-of-semester elementary school art show, a couple of parties, and a swim meet (my kid's first one!) to go to. Next week -- our last week of school before the semester ends -- there are yet more parties, and holiday performances and concerts, at the school.
The tallest Christmas tree in Bangkok at Central World (photo courtesy of Richard Barrow).
I do miss some of the things we used to do and see during the holiday season: the light shows, holiday concerts, holiday events and festivities at the museums and parks, the National Christmas Tree, and trips to New York City. And of course, most of all, getting together with and seeing family and friends.

But you know what? Aside from the people, I'm not missing any of the other stuff as much as I thought I would. What I especially don't miss is all the commercialism and holiday spending frenzy in the month(s) that lead up to Christmas: The quest to acquire the latest and the best; crowding through the doors of stores and trampling over people on Thanksgiving night, right after saying thanks, or on Black Friday, just to be able to grab a deal; being bombarded by ads, flyers, and commercials that told me what I *must* get for my family members to prove my love for them; listening to my kid tell me every day from Halloween until Christmas about this or that latest toy or gadget that his friends were getting and that he must have. Just watching the American commercials online these days stresses me out -- all the chaos, hysteria, and excess!

Don't get me wrong, materialism and consumerism are most definitely alive and well here, especially among the rising middle and upper socioeconomic classes. For us, though, it is a completely different story. We no longer receive ads, flyers, and catalogs advertising the latest toys and other "must-haves." We don't watch any TV here because we have no idea what the shows are about, so we don't see all the over-the-top commercials. The latest, trendiest toys that exist in the U.S. have not made it here yet, so my son is not constantly hearing about the latest thing he must have.

It has been so refreshing this year not having to watch my son focus so much on, and be consumed with, the trends or having to listen to him talk, for two straight months, about what he wants for Christmas. It always seemed a little too self-absorbed and greedy to me. When we asked him what he wanted for his birthday this year, he had no idea what to ask for! The one down side to living in this bubble with such a lack of selection of toys, though, is that we had no idea either when it came time to get him a birthday present, and were hard-pressed to find something that we thought was worth spending money on.
Our own little corner of Christmas...with tropical greenery instead of snow as the backdrop.
Now we are having the same problem with Christmas. But I think we have found a solution -- instead of giving material possessions that will keep his attention for a few months at best, we are instead going to start giving experiences as gifts. Personally, I've always preferred experience over stuff. I learned a long time ago that having something new and shiny doesn't make me happy for long, but going somewhere or trying something new not only makes me happy at the moment, but also gives me memories that bring me pleasure even when I think about them years later.

We've always sort of done that with my son -- we have always limited the number of gifts he receives and exposed him to as many different things and places as we can. And he loves it; he takes it all in and loves exploring, learning, and questioning. So while we're living here, it makes sense to take advantage of such easy access to so many countries and see as much of this part of the world as possible. Right?
Hoi An, Vietnam...where we will be on Christmas Day, 2013.
Then, of course, there's always Disneyland in Hong Kong and/or Japan (I'm usually not crazy about anything Disney, but if that'll get me to Hong Kong or Japan, I'll make the sacrifice ), or Legoland in Singapore. Now what kid wouldn't rather go to those places than receive some silly toys? (Don't answer that; it may very well be my own....)

“The less you need, the more you live." - Benny Bellamacina


No comments:

Post a Comment