I have spent the last few years of my life simplifying. Everything from cutting out extra curricular activities for my kids, to simpler, easier meals, to shopping online in the sales way in advance etc etc. One of my greatest accomplishments came when I super simplified Christmas. Our Christmases have pretty much been stress free the last few years. The kids know that they get three gifts each just like Jesus did. Our decorations are simple and contained in one room of the house. We always have a tree, stockings, a nativity and nativity dress ups. We like to spend our Decembers relaxing, enjoying service, and being together as a family.
Now throw in a few family obligations, church parties etc. No problem, because we don’t over commit ourselves, and we keep things simple. It’s the only way we stay sane! I know some people who hate Christmas because of all the stress. How sad for them.
I thought that this year in American Samoa it would be the simplest Christmas of all. I am THRILLED with the absence of so much materialism that you see in other places of the world. Elsewhere there are so many parties, so much busyness, so many obligations and expectations, that there is hardly any time to sit back and ponder on the significance of this season. I have already finished wrapping my Christmas presents, and I planned on taking it easy the rest of the month enjoying teaching and talking to my kids about why we celebrate Christmas.
Then Michael and I got involved in secret Santa’s at our respective work places. We are not opposed to giving, and doing it secretly is fun, but why make everything so complicated? The secret Santa’s that we’re used to are where you pick a name out of the hat, and then you buy a gift for that person in secret. Simple right? Not in American Samoa…here you pick a name, then you buy something for them every day for a week, and then, the next week, you get another big gift! That means I’m getting more presents for my secret Santa than I’m getting for my own kids, hmmmm that doesn’t seem right…and remember, people here don’t have a lot of money, so why complicate things so much? I don’t get it.
Then, Michael came home from work and announced that there were four Christmas parties with his work. Seriously? 4? Why? My first reaction is to say, “Which one would you like to go to?” but he explains that we should go to all of them, one is for the government employees, one is specially for the kids, one is a fancy lighting ceremony, one is just for the adults at a nice hotel, blah, blah, blah.
One of the parties conflicts with my work party, so that’s one less to go to, but we still need to figure out babysitting for the adult only one. And then….here is where it gets really ridiculous! Because there is no money in the budget at work for Christmas parties, Michael and his colleagues have to figure out fundraising to make all these parties happen. Their first fundraiser… each employee needs to bake cookies or treats and take them into work every day for a week, which the other employees will buy from them. All proceeds to the Christmas dinner fund. Every day! Wow! I told Michael good luck and I think he ended up buying cookies at the store to sell, and having to buy things from his colleagues that he didn’t really want. He spent over $20 that week. The next fundraiser, selling $5 meal tickets to people. They decided that they would make meals and each employee needed to sell 5 tickets to bring in $25 towards the Christmas dinner fund. Michael didn’t feel like he wanted to sell those to anyone, so bought them all himself. At least, he told me, I wouldn’t have to make dinner one night this week, he’d bring home 5 dinners and I can have the night off. Okay, that’s fine.
Next thing is that the employees have to provide the food for the meals and then cook the food! What a joke! Michael signs up for cucumbers and rice and spends over $20 on those supplies, and tomorrow the employees get to stop working and cook all these meals for everyone who bought a ticket! Can they be any more inefficient than this? This is very common here…to make easy things as difficult as possible. The easiest option would be to not have parties that you don’t have money for, or to simply ask everyone to pay $65 towards the Christmas party fund. Instead, we still have to pay the $65, but we also have to do a ton of baking and buying things we don’t want, shopping needlessly and taking time off work to cook meals! Such silliness.
I am convinced that happiness and peace come from living simply. Life doesn’t need to be complicated with stress and expectations. I really believe this, but I seem to be the minority, no matter where I live. Maybe I just need to move my family to a remote island somewhere where we can be away from all social and peer pressure. Oh, wait…..