Right around mid-October, even before Halloween has hit or costumes are decided, the stores start taunting us. Holiday decorations take over store windows, holiday commercials are on TV and catalogs fill our mailboxes. Brightly colored party clothes, fancy invitations and gift wrap are everywhere. Families pose for holiday cards in perfectly coordinated sweater sets, winter break vacations are planned, and travel is booked. Ads for everything we think we need are tossed at us from just about every direction — via emails, commercials, texts — and on every social media platform available.
It’s no wonder we so often lose sight of what is really important during the holiday season when so much else is shoved down our throats. It’s hard for anyone to think past the glitz and glamour and remember what this time of the year is actually about — giving.
Instead of falling into my normal, holiday-time frazzle this year, I’m challenging myself and my family to think differently, to encourage a paradigm shift of sorts and to look at this holiday from a different angle than we have before.
1. We’re getting crafty. We are going to encourage crafty gift giving among friends and family. We’re going to use our hands and our hearts to create handmade ornaments, frames, cards, wrap and more. We’re going to make our teachers gifts, bake cookies for our neighbors and nix our traditional holiday “shop-a-thon.”
2. We’re volunteering. We’re helping in our community at our food banks and our church. We’re donating our time to help at our local schools and nursing homes. Nothing huge — we’ve got three young children under our roof. But we will do what we can. We’ll read to elders, sing carols and decorate.
3. We’re swapping, thinking and making changes. We’re exchanging our wish-list writing for a collaborative family brainstorm about how we can incorporate more giving and less receiving into our holiday. We’re thinking about others instead of ourselves, and we’re going to talk about it with our friends and family.
We will still give gifts to our kids, but instead of mountains of gifts under our tree, perhaps we’ll have smaller pile of “things” and more gifts that include day trips, experiences and events. Something needs to change, and perhaps our small step will encourage others to do the same.
I’m not guaranteeing miracles here — goodness knows this will not be as easy as I’m making it sound. But I am guaranteeing some sort of change — even if it’s small for this first year.
How does your family turn gift giving into giving back?