I always find Christmas to be a difficult time for what seems to me the distorted values our society has. For me, Christmas is about the celebration of another year, giving thanks for all the wonderful memories made, enjoying your family, and the spirit of giving. If you are religious it is about celebrating the birth of Christ. If you celebrate Solstice on the 21st (as we do) it is about the return of the sun and a respect for our natural world, for Mother Nature. It’s not that I don’t think these should exist all year through, because I do, but Christmas (and Solstice) is a more formal recognition of those things. And with the spirit of giving comes the exchange of gifts.
Now, I think gift giving is important, though I don’t think any gift needs to be particularly grand or expensive. Sometimes those gifts that aren’t at all expensive are the ones appreciate the most (giving of ourselves rather than something material). Our daughters are encouraged to pick out a gift for each other on their own (or maybe with a bit of guidance) within a certain budget. It is amazing to me to watch them take into consideration so carefully who the other is in this process of selecting a gift.
Gift giving can however, cause some stress in my life. My parents are divorced as are Sean’s. This means that instead of 1 gift from each set of grandparents, there is now 1 gift from each grandparent. I also have 4 siblings, and Sean has 2. Those of us who have children, buy a gift for each other’s children. Which means there is another 4 gifts coming to each of my girls. Sean and I each have a grandma still in our lives who like to buy our girls a gift. Often times a few of these people will give not just one but a couple of gits. So already before you factor in the fact that we like to buy our children a few things, they already have about 10 gifts to think about. And in a society where we have so much to be thankful for, who needs all those gifts?
Although there are a couple of material items that each of my girls may want, if family feel the need to give a gift, we generally encourage passes to places in our city that we can go together as a family (museum, swimming, movie, etc.), or books (as my children will re-read their books multiple times), or again gifts of their time (spend a day with my children). We have also encouraged family members to donate to charities instead of purchasing gifts. Sean and I have opted out of exchanging gifts with siblings as we all recognize there’s far too much consumerism going on throughout the season.
The amount of money that leaves a person’s bank account and goes into the hands of (mostly) big box stores and huge companies, is astounding to me. I’d rather just know that my family is safe, well taken care of, and spend the evening playing board games, watching films, and having great food and conversation. The get togethers are what I love most about the holidays. I hope this holiday season, people remember that it’s not about the gift.
No amount of material goods will truly make a person happy. So let’s reflect on what will and work towards that.