December has started. Yes, as a family, we celebrate Christmas, so we are now firmly in the middle of the holiday season. The last leftovers of Thanksgiving dinner were made into a turkey pie that is in the freezer for a treat sometime in the next few weeks.
We have some interesting holiday traditions, such as we always cut our Christmas tree from the tree stand on our land. The thing is, our trees are now like 30 feet tall, and we have kept a lot of them as a beautiful little forest on our land. So our holiday tree options are the ones that need to be thinned out, so frankly, they are not the most perfect of trees. Each year we suggest to our youngest that we could just go buy a tree, and he insists that we go with one of our own. Then we start the haggling over what we think is the least ugly tree, and cut it down, make wreaths from the extra boughs, and put up our tree. That will happen a week to two weeks from now.
This past weekend we went to the nearest shopping mall. The store wasn’t as busy as I had expected, but it was still pretty crowded, and holiday “stuff” was everywhere. Besides the fact that my allergies kicked into overdrive with all of the perfumes, scented candles, and other smells, something struck me. I didn’t see smiling families, or happy couples. I saw a lot of couples who seemed really irritated with each other, and many families where either the children were crying or the adults were snapping. Why? It seems wrong to have families piling shopping carts full of what clearly are holiday gifts when they were grouching at each other. Where was the joy? Where was the togetherness? Where was the love?
As far as I am concerned, gifts given out of a sense of duty, or out of the dreaded “they gave me something, so I need to give them something” are wrong. Gifts given to try out “out give” are wrong. The stresses we put on ourselves and others at the holidays are wrong.
What if instead, we tried to give gifts of time, memories, love? What about making an audio file of you reading a favorite book to a child, and giving them a copy of that book so they can read along instead of more plastic toys? What about making a dinner that can be frozen and giving it to a busy family as their gift? Lasagna is a great choice! What about taking an older relative somewhere they might not feel comfortable going anymore on their own, such as to the mall or for a scenic drive? What if we taught children about giving time and love instead of teaching them that buying love through expensive gifts is a good idea?
The holidays are a wonderful time. They also are a time full of stress, unrealistic expectations, family pitfalls, excess, and the potential for misunderstandings and hurt feelings. Even if you don’t have familial issues, or struggle with mental health, or are experiencing grief, they still bear a very great emotional weight. Let’s try to lift that weight with love, kindness, acceptance, and giving the gifts of time and support for each other.