So, if you’ve read my last two posts, hopefully you are feeling less stressed about the holidays because you are taking care of yourself and simplifying your schedule. Here’s the last, and probably most important way to relax and enjoy the season: make sure it has real meaning for your family. It’s so easy to get caught up in the commercial aspect as well as the social obligations: we think (consciously or unconsciously) that we need to buy at least as many gifts as last year, we feel that we are expected to attend certain functions, and pretty soon we forget the real meaning behind the season.
If your family is religious, then staying in touch with your religious observances is a clear way to focus on the “reason for the season”. But even if your family doesn’t subscribe to any particular religion, here are some ways to focus on the spirit:
1. Make gifts meaningful. If you have kids, then you’ve probably experienced cheap plastic toy overload. The recession, increased environmental awareness and recent publicity about the dangers of imported toys have helped many of us realize the pointlessness these types of gifts. One way to avoid this is by buying quality made educational toys such as those by Melissa and Doug. Another is to give “experiences” instead of toys that may be played with for a short while and then discarded. A friend of mine said her daughters’ favorite gift one year was when her mother treated them to a dog-sled ride. Stocking stuffers were muffs to keep their hands warm and treats for the dogs. It was a special experience they will never forget. A trip to the ballet, a concert, or even a day at the bowling alley with friends are all great ideas.
2. Share with the less fortunate. Volunteer at a local soup-kitchen, ring the bell for the Salvation Army, or sponsor a family. Your local United Way can give you a wish-list for a struggling family. Kids enjoy picking out gifts for other kids, and learn to appreciate how lucky they are. We are going to shop for the family we’re sponsoring tomorrow. It is humbling to think that others are soldiering on with so little. I am grateful for the opportunity to help in some small way, and for all of the blessings in my life.
This is my wish for you, too – that you find true meaning in the season and enjoy it with the ones you love.