I say this with all love and kindness, but I hate the holidays. Not because of the initial intent behind the celebrations, but because of the consumerism that strangles the joy out of the season. When I was a young child, I looked forward to my grandparents visiting us. Yes, I did like the gifts. I would be lying if I said otherwise. But it wasn’t so much the thing in the box I enjoyed, it was the anticipation, the thoughtfulness, and the community who gathered around to see my excited eyes light up.
My favorite memories about the holidays have nothing to do with presents. The only gift I ever remember receiving was underwear. Boring! Helping my mom make ornaments, baking pies and cookies with my grandma, laughing with my cousins, and driving around the neighborhood looking at Christmas lights are the memories I cherish.
As I got older, the crushing necessity to buy presents became a requirement or a rite of passage into indebtedness. With the draining of my financial bank account, my emotional bank account became overdrawn. As my credit card debt soared, my depleted soul ached for something special—connection, love, and peace.
The season of family and laughter morphed into the season of “gimme” and “buy me.” I was provided lists of acceptable gifts from the gift recipients. The thoughtfulness vanished. The anticipation was gone. The community became a pack of wolves tearing at the dying carcass of Santa Claus. And my emotional reward was an acknowledgement that I could follow instructions. Ho! Ho! Hum.
Before I am labeled a scrooge, let’s consider something. Several years ago, when money was tight and the thought of shopping gave me hives, I decided to bake cookies as gifts. I made hundreds of cookies using recipes passed down from my grandma and a few that were hastily scribbled down while watching the Food Network. I boxed them, labeled them, and like Santa, drove around town passing them out. With every answered door, I was greeted with a smile, a surprised look, and a hug. I was invited in, offered some hot cocoa and a cookie. Friendship and fellowship were the greatest gifts I received that holiday. And the cookies are still talked about six years later.
The holidays suck when you are focused on the wrong priorities. If you are stressed out, you may be unnecessarily burdening yourself. Consider making these four changes to alleviate your stress.
- Re-prioritize the meaning of the holiday. Is it about consumerism or is it about family and friends? Are you buying love or giving love? Are you trying to be remembered or are you creating memories?
- Create the gifts you want to give. Create dough instead of spending dough. Pour your love into cookies or crafts or providing services instead of plonking cash in the pockets of corporations.
- Give back to those in need. The holidays can be a lonely time for millions of people who have no family, no home, and no hope. Volunteer at a homeless shelter. Take some shelter dogs on a walk. Volunteer at a nursing home. Give of yourself freely, and I promise, you will be rewarded.
- Hug anyone who needs it. Bear hugs are a magic elixir not just for the recipient but also for the giver. Connect with people. Be with people. Focus on love, kindness, acceptance, peace, wellness and generosity of spirit this holiday season.
These four changes will not only alleviate your holiday stress, but also create a legacy for your children.
Let’s bring the holiday spirit of giving of ourselves to others; embracing our creativity to show others they are special to us, and spreading joy and peace to the ones we love.