This time of year (late autumn) brings up a lot of emotional stuff for many of us.
The seasons are changing. It’s getting colder and our bodies are adjusting to less sunlight and needing more downtime.
The year is coming to an end, bringing up anxiety around what we accomplished or need to get done before the clock strikes 2016.
And then, there’s that looming fact that the holiday season is coming up.
The coffee shops are doling out their bright red cups.
Brightly lit, ornamented trees are going up in the shopping malls.
TV commercials ring with jingle bells and reminders to buy buy buy before it’s too late.
This cocktail of crazy is a recipe for holiday frustration, despair, and even outrage.
I’ve seen some of my good friends get really depressed that they don’t have enough money to purchase the gifts big box jewelry and car companies are telling them their loved ones “deserve” from them – sending them into a tailspin of shame.
I’ve also had friends get so frustrated with the over-commercialization of the holiday season that they turn their backs on all the festivities and grumpily opt-out of giving gifts in protest.
They aren’t alone in their frustration. A 2005 survey showed that 4 out of 5 Americans think the holidays have become too materialistic.
And, while I fully agree that this traditionally festive time of year has been commandeered by retail companies trying to squeeze the most money out of us, I do not believe turning your back on the time-honored tradition of exchanging gifts is the way to respond.
Giving gifts is a beautiful and sacred act that has been around for thousands of years. It’s an opportunity to show appreciation and gratitude to those you cherish most in your life and give blessings for the new year.
Giving gifts can be good for your health.
Psychologists report that, in the act of gift giving, it is the gift giver that gains more psychologically than the gift receiver.
Think about it: When you are giving someone you care about a gift, it brings up all sorts of awesome feelings like pride, gratitude and connection to your recipient.
Giving a gift can be a form of social engagement and expression of love. When we give a gift to someone, we feel effective and caring. We remember that we matter.
This sense of contentment and meaningful connection tends to get lost in the over-hyped commercial side of holiday gift giving. I have found that it is more easily accessed when the gift is something you’ve had a hand in creating.
Six years ago, I was a poor grad student who had had enough of the over-commercialization of the holidays but wanted to show my love and appreciation to the important people in my life.
So I started making gifts.
The experience of making the gifts myself transformed my gift giving experience and took on a more sacred meaning in my life. I was buying the best, most beautiful ingredients I could reasonably afford and taking care to craft my creations with intention. And my giftees could feel the difference.
To this day, my loved ones rave about the tea I gave them 3 years ago and herb-infused sea salt slipped into their stockings last year. They cannot get enough. They want to know what’s in it, how I made it, how to use, every last detail. They can feel the magic and meaning I put into those gifts and they want more of it.
That’s not something you can feel from a $5 stocking stuffer your great-aunt snagged at Target.
This is different. This is deeper.
Have you ever watched the face of the gifter as the giftee opens their gift? It’s a precious moment of satisfaction, hope, and joy that feeds your soul and nourishes the connection between you two.
I don’t want you to miss out on that moment.
Instead of opting out of gifts completely because you’re sick of the commercial hype, I invite you to inspire change in your own circles by choosing to do gifts differently.