The other day, I was in a restaurant waiting for a friend to arrive when I couldn’t help but overhear two women at a table nearby, talking about the upcoming holidays.
“It’s ironic.” One of the women said. “We have been wishing for things to get back to normal, after being shut down and separated from our families because of the restrictions caused by Covid. Now, here we are with the holidays ahead, and we are gearing up for a “normal” Christmas, for the first time in two years, and I realize THAT normal is one I actually dreaded.”
Maybe having a more calmed down Christmas last year was long overdue. For many, the Covid restrictions were the reason our normal Christmas routines were interrupted.
And, maybe THIS holiday season we can take some cues about what was always “normal” before and create a new normal going forward. Something simpler. More serene. More lastingly meaningful. Consumer Reports did one of those surveys a few years ago about how much time people spend shopping for Christmas, both in stores and online. The average was 19 hours. That didn’t include the time devoted to list-making, gift wrapping, and all the other bells and whistles which are part of the flurry around holiday shopping.
As we know, those hours are often breathlessly sandwiched in on lunch breaks, after work and those 3:00 am, high anxiety wake-up calls reminding us that we still haven't ordered Aunt Ethel’s fluffy green bathrobe.
The question is….is this kind of performance, checklist “giving” creating actual joy?
Are we filled with the Christmas spirit or setting the timer for another countdown day? And, just as a reminder….the season is about the birth of Jesus Christ and the eternal, unconditional love for humankind that the gift of his life represents. Are we are giving, or checking the get-it-done boxes?
Honestly, for many years, everything around the event of Christmas has filled me with much more dread than joy or wonder or sugar plums. I DO love to decorate the house. And listen to Christmas music, even by Alvin and The Chipmunks and Dolly Parton and Andrea Bocelli. And, oh boy, do I love to cook. (And eat) Last year, it even snowed on cue, on Christmas Eve right into Christmas Day. Hallmark came to Highlands, NC for Christmas, to be sure.
Still, over the years, most days, I have been in count-down mode, wondering how I will get it all done, and keep my happy face intact.
Maybe THIS year there is a new way to experience the true meaning of Christmas, to feel more loved and loving, than stressed. Maybe this year, we could consider new, positive and thoughtful ways to give of ourselves. Maybe this is the new normal that would allow us to spend less on things that will just get re-gifted or shoved in the closet for next year’s white elephant party. Do you know anyone who really needs more stuff?
Is the gift about THE thing? Or is it about the acknowledgment of our caring for one another? How important is it to have the bright, shiny boxes to open on Christmas Day? Does a mountain of packages mean we love one another more? How often do our kids ignore the shiny stuff in the box, and end up playing in the ocean of gift wrap and empty boxes?
Would you like a suggestion that’s about a simple gift that’s not about stellar catalog shopping, or the latest tech gizmo, or money or perfect performance? It’s a gift you will never forget if you receive one. And, I am certain it will have the same effect on anyone you might choose to give it to. I can’t take credit for this simple, profoundly positive idea but I can tell you how it felt to be the recipient.
A few years ago, my stepdaughter, Christy, wrote me a letter for Christmas. No flashy gifty-poo-poo, wrapped for an extra $20 at the store, to create a bigger, better show. It was just a simple envelope with a little bow. She wrote it on pretty, plain white stationery in green ink and drew little holly doo-dah’s around the edges.
She wrote to me about how much she loved the way I loved her dad. And her brothers and herself. She wrote about how much it meant to her to get to really know her father, as a real person, not just as “dad”, after her parent’s divorce. She wrote about how much fun we had together and how great it was to count on laughing a lot when it was just us. She thanked me for including her friends on long weekends and for holiday plans. She wrote about how much she had learned from me just by watching me be me.
Could any THING compare to this?
How often do we let the people we love really KNOW it? How often do we let them know we are inspired by the way they love and laugh and live? How often do we let them know we are appreciating certain ways they touch our hearts and enhance our lives? And...that we treasure their lives as one of our greatest gifts.
What if those 19 frantic hours of scurrying and rushing and spending could melt away into quiet time set aside to write a note from the heart to someone you love? Does this feel too scary or airy-fairy? Is it easier to spend the money than to extend ourselves? Are we conforming and performing our way through the expectations of another “normal” Christmas only to find our energy and our wallets depleted when it's all over?
All I know is that the opening of one heart beats the opening of any gift-from-the-list, any time, anywhere.