Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Holidays and Plarn

  The kids and I had a little out-of-the-norm fun over the holiday season. I have a great new pattern that I'm working on for their room, and it's eating up my whole stash of grocery bags for plarn (plastic yarn). Now, the Boy doesn't mind helping me turn the bags into plarn; he actually says he likes it. The Kid on the other hand... I know she hates it, even though she doesn't directly say so. I can't even pay her to help me cut up bags. But even Little-Miss-You-Can't-Pay-Me was willing to put in some work over the holiday, and we managed to turn it into a new, weird family tradition.

plarn, plastic yarn, crochet, finger crochet, recycling plastic bags

  I usually prefer cutting my plarn using the single-strand method, but this time I'm cutting and joining with the "loop" method. It's easier for the kids, and faster for me. Plus, we're making super-thick loops by just cutting the bags in half. (And by "we", I mean "me", because there's no way I'm letting them handle the super-sharp rotary cutter.) Before beginning on the pattern for their room, I had them sit down with some scissors and help me make some material for testing. The resulting multi-colored, ridiculously thick chain of plarn became our special "holiday" decoration.

plarn, plastic yarn, recycling plastic bags

  To dive into a side subject for some explanation: I don't celebrate Christmas, so the kids usually spend it with other parts of the family that do. This year, they were stuck with Mom, so we decided to "celebrate" Festivus, which I also don't really celebrate.

  Many people believe that Festivus came to life from an episode of the T.V. sitcom "Seinfeld", but it only became known because of it. In fact, Festivus was being celebrated long before the show ever existed. It was the father of a writer from the series that first invented Festivus, not something just made up in the show. However, that doesn't change the fact that it's still a completely made up "holiday". From the "Airing of Grievances" to the "Feats of Strength", writer Dan O'Keefe's family celebrated it all a bit differently than what the public saw on TV... And there never was a "Festivus Pole". The "real" Festivus involved a clock being nailed to the wall in a bag... The purpose of which was not to be known by children. (Read all about the original holiday in the book "The Real Festivus: The True Story Behind America's Favorite Made-up Holiday" by Dan J. O'Keefe.)

  I didn't have a suitable clock, and I didn't really want to stick another nail in my wall, so I decided to roll with it and make our own tradition. By the time all was said and done, it wasn't really "Festivus" at all... It was just our own thing, which seems to be more in the spirit of the original holiday. We used the test plarn to crochet a multi-colored chain (and by "we", again, I mean "me", because although they're trying, they don't crochet... Yet), then we decorated a palm tree out front as our "Festivus Tree". The end result of the test material was a 65-foot long plarn atrocity that couldn't be more perfect for our newly-made family tradition... Which may or may not leave a few neighbors wondering what we were thinking, but that's "not for them to know"!

plarn, garland, Festivus Tree

  Now, on to a slight rant: Why I decided to teach them about Festivus, and not put on a fake Christmas just for them. (Also, why I really hate Facebook.) Many people see this made up holiday as a mockery of their own beliefs. The point of Festivus isn't to mock religious holidays; it's to mock the commercialism and greed that has taken over the Holiday Season in some cultures - or at least, to try escaping it. No matter if it's Christmas, Hanukkah, or one of the many other holidays celebrated over the Season and the rest of the year, the purpose of a holiday is usually to remember a sacrifice, hardship, or suffering, and to give back in return for it. To have an unselfish spirit and a giving heart. It seems like more often than not, that purpose is being forgotten.

  Every year, I watch the people that celebrate the Holidays. Some have it right, and that's nice to see. But many others push and shove in the name of a sale; fight over the latest toys their kids want; try to outspend each other on useless doodads and fancy feasts just to look better, while some out there don't have a home or a meal for the holiday. Kids rip open yards of colorful paper just to toss their new thing aside for the next thing... Then fight over it or forget about it later. Stores cry "Shop our sales for the Holidays!", all while doing their best to keep their opinions about which they celebrate neutral, so they don't offend anybody. And it all generates tons upon tons of garbage that overflows trash cans and landfills.

plarn, plastic yarn, recycling grocery bags, crochet

  Why am I ranting about it? Because this year, a few people went so far as to tell me they'll be "un-friending" me on Facebook for not saying "Merry Christmas". It has pushed me over the edge. These same people all shared photos such as: Christmas trees barely recognizable behind piles of presents, lines in Walmart, beer-can Christmas trees, and in one case, their kids strangling each other on a pile of wrapping paper. Some contained comments about being broke or not being able to wait for their tax return. It didn't make me want to wish anyone a Merry Christmas. It sickened me and made me sad, so I stayed off of Facebook. And then they were offended by that.

  Here's my opinion about it: I hope you had a Happy Whatever You Celebrate. And have a Happy New Year, too. I truly mean that. But, you don't need my wishes to make it a good one. If I know you celebrate Christmas, then I'll tell you "Merry Christmas" when I talk to you. Please don't be offended if I didn't think to jump on social media to personally say it to everyone over the holiday season, while I was spending time with my kids. If you celebrate Hanukkah and you wish me a happy one, I won't be offended. I'll be happy that you thought to wish me well, and I'll wish you one back. I honestly don't know much about how Kwanzaa is celebrated, so if I found out that's what you observe, I would ask you to tell me about it. Then I would wish you a joyous one.

  And that's the biggest lesson I'm trying to teach my kids; not just for the Holiday Season, but for every day in life. People are different. Not everybody is trying to offend someone, they just live a different lifestyle than you. So instead of celebrating a fake, meaningless Christmas and spending money I don't have on toys they don't need, we recycled a ton of grocery bags while spending time as a family. We talked about Greek mythology, healthy eating, civics, the President (with side subjects of gun control / safety), rap music, charity and cats; they both sat down with crochet hooks and worked on learning to chain; we had some awesome carbonara pasta for dinner. We had a little fun trying to throw our plarn garland into our "Festivus Tree", but required the previously-missing Other Half's superior strength to succeed before the sun went down.

plarn, Festivus, crochet

  So there we were, all out in the yard admiring our (horrendous) creation, and nobody was complaining about not having toys or a Christmas tree. Nobody was upset that they didn't get wished a Merry Christmas. Nobody (but me) noticed that I haven't trimmed the dead fronds off that palm tree in years... Everyone was proud of the hard work they had done, and the chain reminded them of that every time they went outside. But nobody felt the need to jump on Facebook and start sharing pictures with the world.

  It was a Merry Christmas, whether we "celebrated" it or not. Because we made the most of our day(s). We learned new things, and made new traditions. We made it a Merry Christmas/Festivus/New Year, turning one day of celebration into a week of opportunities. If your holidays weren't happy, then it's not because I didn't wish it for you. If someone else ruined your day, then I'm sorry; that always sucks. But maybe your holidays weren't happy because you're too busy looking for someone to say it to you; give it to you, instead of making the best for yourself and wishing the same for everyone else. Perhaps that's the even bigger lesson that I'm teaching my kids.

Happy Crocheting!
And Happy New Year!

finger crochet, plarn, plastic yarn, crochet without a hook

Speaking of BIG lessons, how about giant plarn and finger crochet? Coming soon... This will be interesting!

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