Get some great last-minute ideas for non-material gifts that don’t break your budget or end up in the landfill!
In this episode I’ll talk about why it’s great to give gifts for the holidays. And I’ll share some ideas from own “holiday gift bag” for meaningful gifts that are fun and creative and don’t add to the usual shopping and financial stress of the season.
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Holiday gift-giving is traditional for Christmas, Hanukkah and even Kwanzaa. Since all three of these holidays occur near the winter solstice, when daylight hours are the shortest of the entire year, their celebrations also include light as a key component, in the form of candles, Yule fires, or strings of lights used for decoration. We bring in light to counteract the darkness and we offer gifts to one another to show our love and regard.
While this gift-giving is a beautiful tradition, there is no doubt that it has become over-commercialized for those who celebrate Christmas. So much emphasis has been placed on gifts that the actual meaning of the holiday seems nearly lost in the race to buy the best presents. Sadly we live in a society where most people actually have far more “stuff” than they need or could ever use, which makes the gift-glut even worse for the environment, our pocketbooks, and our souls. It’s time to rescue the holiday from the overconsumption of material goods by changing the way we give to one another.
My family has adopted a tradition of giving one another “experiences” rather than objects. We surprise each other with creative ideas for ways to spend special time together that take place later in the year, so the Christmas spirit lasts far longer than just one day. As an example our experiences last Christmas included a wine-tasting trip, a Beatles tribute concert, a sunset picnic in San Diego, and a camping trip to Joshua Tree National Park. None of these experiences cost much money and they were all easy to plan and schedule. AND they each created special memories that will last far longer than any material possession would last.
The original Christmas gifts, from the Three Wise Men according to legend, included gold to honor royalty, frankincense to create a sacred space, and myrrh (an herb used for embalming) to remind us of our mortality. With this guide in mind we can plan our own “wise gifts” for the holidays.
In my mind, gold is represented by the giving of your time; in our lives, time is precious and when you choose to give your time to another you honor their royalty. Frankincense is replaced by the giving of your wisdom and talents--a gift of your soul–to bless your loved one. The function of myrrh is accomplished by talking about the preciousness of life and the fleeting nature of the special times we have to celebrate with one another because we are mortal.
Taking your time and talents and your impermanence into consideration, here are some ideas for experiences you might give to your loved ones this holiday season:
- camping adventure
- hiking trip
- bird watching
- concert or show tickets (to see together)
- art 101 tour (if you are an art lover)
- introduction to opera or symphony
- craft class – like knitting, crocheting, etc. Whatever you know well enough to teach
- private yoga lesson or meditation class (to take together)
- cooking lesson (and share the meal after)
- scrapbooking class
- painting class
The basic idea is that you offer to teach what you know to your loved ones or to share an experience that’s new to both of you that you can learn from together. Some of these ideas are pricier than others (especially show tickets) but if your funds are tight you can plan a hike or a special picnic quite inexpensively.
Finally don’t forget to talk with your loved ones about the fleeting nature of life and why we must all cherish our opportunities to share these experiences together.
It’s important to get everyone to buy in to this idea before the holiday celebrations start and it may not work well for children who still expect a visit from Santa. But the gift of an experience could end up changing your holiday and your relationships for the better. I hope you’ll give it a try!
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