For many of us it has become customary during the month of December to celebrate our holiday season, and religious events such as Christmas and Hanukkah, by the giving of gifts. This is a wonderful opportunity to show others how much we appreciate and care for their presence in our lives, the love which they have offered, or the services which they provide. We buy gifts for our family and friends, often for coworkers, and other service providers such as the postman, cleaners, or building superintendents. The reality of this tradition is that it can be both costly and stressful. As a result for many, “the perfect Christmas gift” becomes less than perfect due to the challenges and stress that are a result of finding and paying for that gift.
Gift giving is an emotionally charged event. In a perfect world that is filled with, and driven by compassion, gift giving is the opportunity to tangibly illustrate our care for others. Commercialism and our own inherent beliefs can quickly erode the joy of giving a gift to another.
So how do we engage in this wonderful tradition of gift giving without enabling the tradition to trigger feelings of anxiety, and stress?
First, we need to recognize that gift giving has two parts, the giving of a gift, and the receiving of the gift. The joy of this tradition cannot be fully experienced unless both parts are done well. The best gift is given from the heart. So too, the best gift received, is wholeheartedly received with gratitude and not deference. Although both halves of gift giving can be challenging, many of us are inherently challenged with receiving a gift well. How often has a friend offered to buy you dinner and you have politely refused, saying “No, I will pay my share,” or minimizing the gift of dinner by saying “Well, I’ll get you next time.” The net effect to the giver is to lessen the value of why the gift is given. A sincere and wholehearted, “Thank you so much, I really appreciate you caring,” is always the best response in accepting a gift well, and ensuring that we are part of the loving and compassionate intent of the tradition.
Second, it is important that both the giver and receiver of any gift, chooses to value the gift based on the intentions of the giver, not the monetary value of the package. In our capitalistic world we are all so wrapped up in the value of money, that we unthinkingly apply monetary value to a tradition that was never meant, nor ever should be, about money. When choosing a gift, or receiving a gift, remember to stay focused on the intention of the giving, and not the content. December in particular is a time that many people are financially challenged. Let go of any thoughts of comparison of gifts given or received in the past. Do not let money ruin a beautiful tradition, or rob you of its potential to manifest love and compassion.
Consider giving gifts that require your personal talent, time, or consideration of your knowledge of the person to whom the gift is being given. Are you a great cook? Consider decorating some recycled boxes with Christmas wrap and foil, and filling them with your homemade cookies! Purchase inexpensive jars from the dollar store and fill them with homemade goodies such as handmade candies, or even homemade vanilla extract (you can quickly get that easy recipe off of the Internet). One of the most touching gifts I have ever given, or ever received, was a hand written book. Find an inexpensive blank book, and take the time to write on each and every page one reason that you so love, or appreciate, this person in your life. This is a very inexpensive gift that will keep on giving for years to come.
This is the season to be merry. Go ahead and indulge in the tradition of gift giving, and gift receiving. Invest with love, compassion, and the kindest of intentions. Care for each other and yourself in the process. The tradition of gift giving is about the “joy to the world” which we choose to give. This season, choose to make the world a more joyful place.