As we all speed toward Christmas and the end of yet another year, it is easy to become mired down in the stresses placed upon ourselves and those which trickle down from outside sources such as work and general day to day life. It is evident that for some, Christmas is a competition. We seemingly have to put up the best house decorations or at least better than we did the year before. Parents often seem to want to outdo themselves by going bigger and better with respect to buying gifts for their children, thus perpetuating Christmas as a materialistic and wholly monetary holiday (and setting a dangerous example for their children in the process), trivialised to the same degree as Valentine’s Day or Halloween, both of which also lost their true meanings decades ago.
Every single Christmas story we have ever heard attempts to teach us that the love and joy of Christmas should follow us throughout the year. It’s also a time to pay special remembrance to those we have lost, and to find comfort and gratitude for those we still have with us.
Yet, with Black Friday it’s a mad rush to the malls, shopping centres and online shopping sites as we all attempt to find the most bang for our bucks as we descend upon Christmas as if it was a finish line, rather than a new beginning.
I offer the following suggestions to help ease your self-imposed obligations and financial commitments:
Dare I say it aloud, each year my own Christmas list gets smaller. Before you start calling me ‘Scrooge’ or ‘Grinch’ (both of whom, I remind you, were redeemed at the ends of their respective tales), let me clarify that this is not out of dwindling numbers of family and friends, but more of an understanding that the people in my life are fortunate enough to have every material item they could possibly need, without me adding to the pile of unused or unwanted items which are likely to cost the recipients more time and aggravation in having to return the things I bought for them, in exchange for something more suited to their tastes.
The majority of my friends and I have agreed that we would rather go out for drinks, dinners or movies with each other instead of buying gifts since many of us aren’t able to spend enough time together as it is.
Gift cards are also a great option because it gives the receivers a chance to buy something they have likely been saving for themselves. What could be better than giving your friend or family member a little help in the direction they were going to go anyway? With the advent of technology, many stores offer online gift cards which can be used for in-store or online purchases, thus saving you and your recipient time which might otherwise be spent traversing shopping centres.
Gifts also need not be expensive, but they should be thoughtful. I recently saw a video online of a girl receiving a long-lost teddy bear from her boyfriend. He obviously spent more time than money finding the bear, but the joy of being reunited with her erstwhile friend was immeasurable and demonstrated the boyfriend’s affection for his girlfriend in a most poignant and meaningful way.
I also favour tributary gifts such as donations to a charity in the name of the person for whom I might otherwise purchase a gift. Giving to a cause someone else cares about shows your support of their own giving natures. Oftentimes, these charities will send not only a notification to the recipient that a donation has been made in their name, but they’ll also receive a token item illustrating the gift as in the case of World Wildlife Fund’s animal adoption kits. These can generally be purchased online and you can arrange for the notification and gift to be sent directly to the recipient, leaving you more time to relax at home with the ones you love, saving you time, stress and hopefully some money along the way. Particularly with children, tributary gifts are a great way of teaching kids how to empathise and care for the world which they will inherit from us.
And so I would pitch to you the theme that is perpetuated in every single Christmas lesson we’ve ever heard: To spend time, not money, on those who are dear to you. To be thankful and appreciative of what you already have, and to remember those who have passed from your lives but not your hearts. And to ALWAYS remember that love transcends ALL imagined boundaries of race, religion and species.