....So says Jo in the opening lines to Little Women, the beloved book by Louisa May Alcott, and a firm favourite since childhood. There has been much talk, in recent years, of making Christmas less materialistic: it's encouraging to see that there has been a growing 'malaise' about the superficiality attached to what should be a meaningful tradition, the sheer volume of waste, the expectations. Many young people growing up may have come to see Christmas as nothing more than a frenetic festival at which they get to have the latest tech upgrade, and whatever else is on their wish-list, no matter what the cost. So it's good to see that retro has made a comeback, and tradition once again beckons promisingly, at least to some of us!
Younger children - less exposed to peer pressure and more able to enjoy the simple things in life - are often easier to please: sufficient to them, a box containing a few bits and bobs; colourful books or craft items; traditional toys, dare I mention them, such as dolls and cars. As long as they can rip off the bright paper and enjoy the excitement of the moment, after the tremendous build-up of Advent; and watch, with almost equal excitement, as others do the same. Christmas carols and school nativity plays? God forbid, but surely they are all a part of it. Yes, the spirit of Christmas is far more likely to be found in the hearts of the very young, if they're lucky enough to have parents who encourage it. And older folk, who remember how it used to be. Perhaps, might I humbly add, the mid-centurians amongst us who, not quite old and certainly no longer young, treasure that lost age of innocence in which Christmas was really Christmas.
In many ways, the vintage and retro communities in which I have found myself immersed through my love of mid-century modern and mid-century, lead the way: a fondness for old-fashioned things like books, board games and soundly-made stuff which bring back the nostalgia of yesteryear, and send a message of reuse-recycle-remember rather than upgrade-degrade-forget. We are the collectors who attach value to things we've been given, who have kept those little bits and bobs from Christmases past. Who cares about upgrades? I want my beloved things to last forever, not just of themselves, but because of the memories they embody, the meaning they embed. What we get for Christmas now, ought to include, at least in small measure, things we treasure, tomorrow's vintage.
So, making Christmas less materialistic isn't about not giving: Dickens' Christmas Carol has surely made clear once and for all that, with life's many hardships, the joy and atmosphere of Christmas are something even the poorest should be able to look forward to, with a little helping hand from the community and their own extended families. It's about giving what you can afford to give, with thoughtfulness and generosity; and not just within your own little world, but within the community too, where others might not be lucky enough to have a family like yours; where everyone can make a difference, no matter how small. And by all means buy a new decoration or two for the tree each year, because that's part of the fun and helps keep the economy going (buy from small businesses or vintage sellers if you can!) but keep the old ones too: there in that box of memories, you will find the spirit of Christmas encapsulated, ready to be brought out each year to bring comfort and joy.
Blog : by Blackbirds and Me See also : instagram @blackbirdsandme