NOSTALGIC for the joys of a fulfilling Christmas, many Americans
lament the growing commercialism of the season. Caught up in a
hectic pace, they seek to simplify their celebrations. But how?
Magazines offer helpful hints on organization, decorating, cooking,
and gift giving - and all in record time. But Jo Robinson and Jean
Coppock Staeheli, the co-authors of "Unplug the Christmas Machine"
(Quill/William Morrow, $9), whose first revised edition has just
been released, offer more radical solutions to seasonal quagmires
The growing secularization of the society has contributed to the
season's growing commercialism, say Ms. Robinson and Ms. Staeheli
of Portland, Ore., in separate interviews by phone. Even in
religious households, they say, gift-giving, social obligations,
and holiday chores threaten to overwhelm the spirit of Christmas.
"Unplug the Christmas Machine" invites the reader to disengage
from commercialism and search for the meaning behind all the fuss.
It is full of non-judgmental, helpful hints and questionnaires
designed to encourage the reader to consider what matters most to
him or her, and then to break out of the old habits of obligation
Their first workshop was held 14 years ago and surprised them
with its intensity.
"People cried," Robinson says. "Unexpected marital tensions
surfaced. But the workshop worked. They all had such a sense of
relief when they left. In the next couple of years we were invited
to hold workshops by dozens of groups - women's groups, churches,
community centers. We were hearing the same problems over and over
and felt then we should write a book."
Since that first workshop and the first publication of their
book nine years ago, they have, by their own estimation, held more
than 1,000 workshops and touched perhaps 100,000 lives in the
United States and Canada. The revised edition of "Unplug the
Christmas Machine" is substantially the same as the first - the
changes come primarily in the updated resource information.
"Things have changed very little," Robinson says. "I think the
recurring problem is the equation of a 'good Christmas' with the
gifts people give. People feel powerless to change things, though
they want to find more lasting, joyful, genuine ways to celebrate
Robinson and Staeheli recommend that people turn tasks into
traditions. "People have more traditions than they realize,"
Robinson says, "but they're on a 'to do' list. …