On my way home from running errands today I passed a billboard advertising holiday loans for up to $5,000. I don't know about you, but to me this is absurd! The holidays have become about acquiring objects that friends and family may or may not be overjoyed to receive. And we expect stuff in return. Most of the time we go in debt to buy stuff because our collective conscience seems to think that if there aren't mountains of packages to rip open on Christmas morning it is somehow shameful. We don't want our children feeling like Tiny Tim or the poor kid at the orphanage after all.
The holidays are used as a status gauge. If we listen to our children roaming the halls at school after the holiday break we can hear them mirroring our societal lessons on what is important during the holidays. "What did you get for Christmas?" "You should see everything I got!" "Wow, I got a (insert latest expensive gadget)." "Oh, is that all you got?!" We are training them well.
I'd love to hear them say things like, "Hey, what did you do for Christmas?" "I got to spend time with my Grandparents." I got to hand out socks and cookies to the people in our local retirement home." "Oh, that's awesome! I got to build snow forts with my cousins and sing carols to all my neighbors." Because, folks, that's what the holidays are all about.
As you can probably guess, I will not be shopping on black Friday. There is nothing I, nor any of my loved ones, need bad enough for me to enter the fray. For those of you who say you enjoy pitching your tent with your family every year in front of Best Buy to get the door buster deal I say that isn't true joy. You are an adrenaline junkie and you can get your fix in healthier ways. Take a sky diving class or something. Your actions are reverberating though out society and encouraging Walmart to open its doors on Thanksgiving eve. Your need for stuff is a disease.
How do I intend to celebrate the holidays? How can you exit the madness and bring the holidays back to their center of peace and joy?
1. Keep your gift giving to your children simple.
Follow the guidelines; something to wear, something to read, something they want, and something they need. You are still giving them gifts, just with reason and care. You will not be scarring them for life if they compare notes with the kids back at school. Especially if you incorporate other aspects of a simple, joyous holiday. Not getting everything they want sets them up to appreciate what they do get while buying them everything on their list creates, in my opinion, spoiled brats who think they are entitled.
2. Get yourself and your kids involved in more giving.
And by giving I don't mean going out and buying things. Give your time. Give those books and toys they've outgrown to the local children's shelter. Bake cookies and hand them out to your neighbors. Perform random acts of kindness in your neighborhood or with family members. Anonymously leave a basket of food on the porch of a needy family. Get a group of friends and family together to sing carols at the retirement home. Doing these kinds of things is getting to the true essence of the holidays. This is what it is all about folks, whether you are Christian or not.
3. Avoid the malls and the big box chains stores.
Make all or most of your gifts. They don't have to be elaborate. Put together food baskets. If you are good at sewing, or knitting, or any type of crafting, make the most of it and give doing what you do best. That is pure joy, giving a bit of yourself to those you love. Buy used. Some great gifts can be found at second hand stores and antique shops.
4. Be attentive and deliberate in your gift giving.
Don't just buy the latest gadget because it is all the rage. Don't buy bath products because it is an easy out for all the females on your list. If you don't know the person well enough to really know what they need or want then you probably should just hand them a card. If the person is on a tight budget, giving them a gift basket with the things they need but can't always afford is a gift that will be appreciated. Another bottle of hand lotion, not so much. Give from the heart, not the wallet.
The holidays don't have to be madness. No one should go into debt to "give". Let's take the holidays back from the black Friday mentality and really experience joy with our families. It really is simple. Just a slight tweak in mindset. Who's with me?