However, with so much emphasis on giving presence for Christmas, it almost seems a terrible thing to give presents! Gift giving has almost become taboo. It is suggested we give our time - yet we are so stretched for time, we sometimes want Christmas to go away.
My take on it is this:
Giving presents is wonderful. People love to receive them and people love to give them. When the purpose of a present is appreciation or a symbol of your love, isn't that a wonderful thing?
What I think takes away the spirit of Christmas is when presents become obligatory and take the place of presence. You give presents because... just because you're supposed to. Or when the actual present becomes more important than the meaning behind the giving. Or when the present isn't appreciated because it's not what the person 'wanted' or 'asked for'. And then... there is no love and attention exchanged in the process.
I love picking out the perfect gift for someone and seeing their face light up when they open it. I also believe that giving someone your attention is the greatest gift you can give. So here is what I try to do to keep it all in check... because I do love Christmas...
- When I feel like purchasing something for someone, I ask myself: Am I purchasing (or making) this present in appreciation for that person or because I want to give them joy? If yes, purchase. If no, reconsider. If the presents feel obligatory, I reassess and sometimes I pass on the purchase if I realize I'm not buying it for the right reasons.
- When I am giving someone a present, I make an effort to demonstrate my love and appreciation. If it's going in the mail, I may write a note. If it's being given in person, I try to plan a little time together. If it's in the name of simple joy, I simply give. For example, I am giving to a little boy this year who barely knows who I am. But I know the simple act of opening a present is a joyous one for him since he spent several Christmases with very little.
- I create a reasonable budget. I have gone overboard on Christmas in the past. I've gotten caught up in the excitement and spent beyond my means. What I've learned over the years is that a $5 gift is just as exciting and meaningful as a $500 gift... when the right sentiment is behind it. So I try to decrease spending while increasing meaning. It's a little challenge I give myself. In fact, my husband and I have a little challenge each year to get the cheapest bestest Christmas gift. One year I wrote him a song. Another year he gave me a photo calendar with a little surprise experience in each month, for example yoga classes in January. Last year, we fell down on our creativity and had all store bought presents, but I'm working on it this year:)
- I don't overbook my time before and during the Christmas season. Instead I have lots of open space in my 'schedule' to spend quality time with my loved ones. I don't try to accept every invitation - unless I can, of course. I spend my energy sharing beautiful moments with friends and family rather than trying to see everyone for a few minutes and not really get to have a meaningful conversation (which I have done in the past). It's about quality, not quantity. And my time is my present in many cases.
- I make a conscious effort to spend much of my budget on those in need and teach my children to do the same. There was a time I did not have much money, so my giving in this area was a few items to the food bank. But you can always give something - even your time. I have a focus - single parents. But I also give more generous tips at the coffee shops and bigger donations to the homeless on the streets. I do this with my children. My 3 1/2 year old has her first 'Christmas list' this year. She asked for a toothbrush and raisins. I then prompted her to ask for Santa to bring something to someone else. She said, 'bring something to boys and girls.' Ha! This is my attempt to foster giving in my toddler. My oldest has contributed to shoeboxes, Happy Tree presents (gifts for young children in need), the local food bank, and bags of necessities for women's shelters for years. I have also made efforts to give money to people on the streets when my children are with me. For me, doing these things means having less money to spend on Christmas stuff.... but it's also quite selfish. I feel incredible doing it. It gives me a rush. I now see my 21 year old being the same way, and THAT is a great present.
- I have given up on trying to meet social etiquette requirements. If I manage to pick up a bottle of wine to bring to the host/hostess of an event, fabulous. If not, I am there. I give me. Fabulous, right?
- I do not have any expectations. Although I may put a lot of effort into getting the 'right' gift, it's not about the gift. It's about the meaning behind the gift. So, my practical side kicks in - return the gift if you don't like it. You still enjoyed opening it and you still know I care.
- I make time by slowing down time. My presence is the best gift I can give, but I cannot do that when my schedule is too jam packed. When that happens, and I feel like my mind is spinning, I do tend to drop off the gift and barely say hello. This just doesn't bode well with me. So I do my best to fit in my meditation, mindfulness practices, and getting out in nature to reset my mind and focus on what I feel is really important.
Giving gifts is a good thing. But it is not necessary. It is also not necessary to give big. Or to give to everyone. As a grandma, you probably want to be fair to your grandchildren... I will be like that too. If you aren't happy to go purchase and give the present, maybe it's time to ask if the present has the right meaning behind it.
I am 100% in favour of giving presence for Christmas and every day, and I encourage it and continue to learn to do more of it myself. But if you want to spend $1000 on an item for someone you love because you think this will give them joy... and you also are giving them your attention and love.... and you have the right budget for it... what's wrong with that?
The key is to not forget the reason behind the gift and not forget to give what we can give no matter how much money we have - our attention.