A Note on Christmas

Thanksgiving is over and Christmas is here, and that means lots of stress. Theoretically, the holidays are a time to connect with your spiritual side, take a break from work, see your family and friends, and give a few sincere gifts. But what happens is that the gift-giving part is pushed into prominence by retailers, and Christmas especially becomes all about shopping and spending. When all the focus is on the gifts, you get stuck with a lot of stuff you might not want, while frantically trying to find stuff others might like, which you probably can’t afford, and the obligation becomes more powerful than the sentiment of generosity. Then there’s the emphasis on display: you see Christmas wreaths and lights all over the place, which seem more bent on urging you to shop for your own than simply looking nice. Through a strange turn of events, it often seems like the real Scrooge is the one encouraging you to meet all these Christmas obligations. The stress can drive us to eat a ton of sugar and possibly come down with something called Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Some of my suggestions for taking a real holiday:

Celebrate some of the stress-free aspects of Christmas: sing traditional carols and play Christmas music, use your time off to go for walks in the snow or woods, and maybe build a fire in the fireplace.

Spend time with your friends and family. Don’t worry about the gifts part, your presence is much more valuable than anything you could buy for them. Do something fun together that you will remember for a long time.

I actually think that giving gifts is one of the best parts of Christmas. But I just don’t like crowding into the mall with everyone else. Try using your own personal talents, skills, and knowledge when giving a gift: everyone has something they are good at, whether it’s making something with your hands, cooking, writing, music, art, etc. If you’re more technical you could fix someone’s computer, make them a website, etc. You could also write a letter to someone telling them all the reasons why you like them! That’s probably a gift they wouldn’t forget. Sometimes we think we’re not good enough to give someone something personal. It’s embarrassing. But how much more would you appreciate a one-of-a-kind gift than one that you could have bought on your own? Even if your personal skill happens to be making lots of money, how about something such as a museum membership, Netflix subscription, or other gift that “keeps on giving” without requiring more manufacture and waste. (By the way, when I searched for some more ideas online, almost all I found were websites selling “alternative” Christmas gifts. No! I wanted something handmade! More websites selling “handmade” gifts. How about homemade? Plenty of ideas for homemade gifts, but all slanted towards kids. What, adults are too grown up to make something?)

Christmas is supposed to be a “holy day,” celebrated as the birth of Christ. The solstice is also the time of the ancient winter festivals of Yule. The spiritual, not the material, should be the primary focus during Christmas; as such, make sure you get some time to yourself to contemplate the meaning of this time of year.