Three years ago, I decided to stop giving Christmas presents. Am I a Scrooge? Not at all! I simply became frustrated. I realized this season has become over-commercialized and lost much of it's meaning. In addition, already busy with end of the year work deadlines, holiday parties, and all the more routine aspects of life, I found it difficult to gift-give with intention.
Running around spending money on material possession in order to "connect" with someone or show them you love them isn't my idea of connection. Sometimes it's not just the people you feel closest to, I bet you have even given gifts to people out of obligation! I'm not opposed to material gifts by any means. I am simply saying I want to give in an intentional manner for a legitimate reason... giving a $12 candle to your friends doesn't scream thoughtfulness. (Personal gift-giving note: I make it a point to give my friends thoughtful birthday gifts or "just because" gifts throughout the year... even still, these are often time or experiences, not things.)
Another reason this tradition has lost meaning for me personally was that I am not currently aligned with any traditional religious practice. I was raised Catholic and I've studied most major religions, though I respect each of them and remain deeply spiritual. I believe religions are more similar than different, that we are all connected, that shared energy is very real, and that being a good person matters more than what building you may enter for an hour or two once a week.
These factors combined led to my "no gifts" tradition and instead, I choose two alternate routes: (1) Each December, I donate to a charity in the names of those I would have given physical gifts to. (2) I make an effort to spend time with the people that matter - which is something that matters far more to me than physical things and is a practice that permeates my entire life.
Since implementing this practice, I have stuck to my commitment each year and I'M LOVING IT. I am able to be more intentional with my time, lower my stress, and generally enjoy life more. This year, I'm also going to incorporate volunteer time.
Instead of spending your time online shopping or running to the store, try a cup of coffee, a shared meal, a heartfelt card, a walk, or a phone call. These are just a few ideas. And remember, you are gifting your most valuable resource: TIME.
If you are celebrating the birth of Jesus or another religious holiday, celebrate that. Think about what occasion you are celebrating and celebrate appropriately. Think about the values Jesus stood for and the life he lived: he was a minimalist, enjoyed helping others, and spending time with people. Let's get back to those values.
I hope you make it a great holiday season, no matter what or how you are celebrating. And in the words of Ellen DeGenerous, be kind to one another.