This will probably offend a great many people but if even a few take this advice to heart it will be worth it. For many people you know Christmas is not a time of joy. It is a time of sadness, loss, and loneliness. If you are enjoying the season please be aware that many are not and employ a little Christmas etiquette.
If you read Being Poor you know that Mr. Comfortable and I are struggling to survive as are so many people in this difficult time. And Christmas makes the hopelessness of it all so much more “in your face.”
The constant bombardment of commercials for toys, jewelry, clothing, and other gifts is impossible to avoid. It’s not just television but also radio, print, and internet advertising. The only way to get away from it is to sit in a corner and close your eyes.
We only get 5 channels on our television and every one of them runs Christmas movies. Some of them play them all day and all night. And of course in these movies there is some crisis and we’re supposed to believe that Christmas will be ruined but, at the last minute, everything turns out perfectly. People go from desperation to abundance in the minutes between commercials (and did you buy that expensive perfume and the latest tech gadget yet?). In real life the dire situations of people you know doesn’t change for the better overnight. For many it does not change at all. So please show a little consideration for friends and even family you may not know are suffering during this season.
Don’t make promises you aren’t going to keep. If you say you’re going to visit or even send a card, please do so. You don’t know how much that visit or card may mean to someone who is unbearably sad during this “season of joy.”
Don’t make what you think are lighthearted comments about how Santa may save the day. People who cannot afford basic necessities are painfully aware that there will be no last second Christmas miracle that makes things right.
Don’t comment if you go to someone’s home and it is not decorated. Some people don’t decorate because there’s no need for a Christmas tree if there are no gifts to put under it. Others can’t afford a tree. Christmas lights raise the electric bill and some folks are barely able to keep their necessary lights on.
Don’t tell people that “Jesus is the reason for the season” when you’re out buying gifts for everyone from family to the mailman. We’re all aware that we celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25th but society has made Christmas all about gift giving. And if you can’t afford even the most inexpensive gifts for those you love the last thing you want to hear is someone who is piling up the presents to lecture you on how you should view Christmas.
Don’t clean out your pantry and deliver your expired food to food banks. Getting food poisoning for Christmas isn’t a gift anyone wants. Food pantries are not your feel good garbage can. It’s hard to check if food is expired when food pantries schedule appointments very close together and expect one family at a time to “shop.” Ditto for those “well worn” clothes you want to get rid of to make room for the new ones you’ll get for Christmas.
People who cannot participate in the traditional Christmas festivities want you to have a great Christmas! We hope you never have to live through what we go through every day. We’re happy that you can thrill your family and friends with gifts they love. Just please don’t flaunt it. While we’re glad you got great presents you don’t need to show them off or describe them in detail. Just say you had a fabulous Christmas. And remind your kids not to brag about what Santa brought them when they go back to school. Remember, Santa doesn’t visit poor kids and they’re having a hard enough time dealing with that without your kids making them feel even more unloved.
Enjoy your Christmas! Just remember that there are people you would never suspect are unable to view it with the excitement, anticipation, and joy that you do. A little Christmas etiquette goes a long way.