Do you ever feel somewhat cynical and uncomfortable about the commercial nature of Christmas.? At times I do The frenzy of running around the shops trying to find gifts (and now we can do the running around online too) often leaves me questioning why, and with feelings of confusion, shame, stinginess and cynicism. I am trying to resist the cheap and easy option as I shared last week in the Making a Stand for Connection blog post.
However I realise that both extremes of firstly feeling negative, stingy, and uncomfortable and secondly of going over the top with extravagance are not helpful. I am not dissing material gift giving, I love to find that perfect present for others and am very excited to receive my new undies from Mum each year. Finding middle ground and thinking about things a little more broadly and creatively may be useful.
It is great to have the opportunity to be generous and give to others and Christmas and other occasions provide such a great opportunity. We don't have to go to extremes and can take this opportunity to extend our thinking about giving in ways which may be new, broader and more creative and fun. Here are some suggestions I have enjoyed, I am sure you will have many more to add to the fun.
* The Kris Kringle
This is a great idea that allows us to give and receive one present in a group situation. I have had lots of fun doing this over the years in family and work situations.
I have come across a couple of interesting variations on the Kris Kringle idea, these include
The Home made Kris Kringle
About seven years ago our family started a homemade Kris Kringle. The main condition is that each gift is to be handmade. This has provided us all with lots of fun and excitement and gives us all the opportunity to use our creativity to produce something uniquely suited to our recipient. The lead up to Christmas involves lots of hammering, sewing, cooking, gluing and home crafts of all kinds, as we work away at our gifts. Our gifts over the years have included wooden planter, boxes, ski racks, hammers, computer case made from rice bags (still in use), glasses made from bottles, knitted socks and beanies, sewn pyjamas, bags and aprons, records, origami wallets, etc. This year I was very happy to receive a red gingham jump suit which matches the curtains in the camper! The Internet is a wonderful source of ideas and practical instruction. It is such fun to create, give and receive such gifts.
I am not sure if this is the right spelling or where this tradition comes from but it was an idea that was introduced to me when working in a rehabilitation hospital. I worked in a department of about 12 people and we each drew a name out of a hat. That person became your smonser and for the next week you would have the fun of doing something kind for that person in secret each day. Desks were decorated, cups of tea made, little edible treats were placed on desks, little gifts specific to the person were given in secret - poems, material things, all sorts of creative things. It was such fun dong and watching others sneak around doing fun, kind creative things for others in secret.
I am so thankful to be introduced to such a fun thing to do and am thinking it need not be restricted to Christmas or to workplaces - it could be done in families or shared houses, where there are lots of opportunities to do kind things to help others. I am thinking we might introduce a family first week of the New Year smonsoring to kick of a giving New Year. Want to join us?
We can be creative with our giving in other ways too. Of course giving does not need to be restricted to occasions like Christmas and Birthdays. It is fun to be a giver anytime. Some other giving suggestions include.
* Give time
A beautiful gift to give anytime is the gift of our time. We can give others our time when we listen, do something practical to help, and in all sorts of other ways. We can use our time and those skills we have to be of benefit to others to
- Listen to others
- Help take someone where they need to go
- Take someone to lunch, for coffee, on an outing
- Visit someone who may be lonely
- Do a job or errant for someone - I always love it when someone takes the time to empty the dishwasher
- Sing a song, write a letter, poem, cook, use your talents to give to others
* Give something practical
Over the years I have maybe gone to extremes regarding the practical nature of gifts. It started when our first son's first Christmas presents including a car seat, high chair, and cot and went on to include our kids receiving school uniforms and school bags for Christmas. (It paid off last year however, because the money received from the second hand uniform shop was our daughters!). You don't need to go to extremes but it can be fun to make things practical if there is a need. Helps us appreciate things too.
* Give a smile
This is such a simple yet powerful thing to give, anytime. A smile can totally change someone's day for the better
* Give a compliment
We all know how nice it is to receive a compliment so have fun giving them away to others.
* Give blood or plasma
Those at the blood bank are so kind and appreciative of donations. It is such fun to go and be a donor.
Sometimes we find ourselves in a position where we feel able and it is appropriate to donate to others in need. It is helpful to remember in these situations that others are giving us the opportunity to give to them, which of course is good for us. This helpful switch in our thinking benefits all.
The end of the year is a great time to go through our wardrobes and homes and see what we might want to pass onto others. The opportunity shops are always in need of and appreciative of donations.
We can express our thanks to others in all sorts of ways. Verbally, with a note or letter or just by being grateful in general for all others are doing for us all the time. Taking time to express our gratitude makes us feel happy.
Letters, texts, emails or whatever form of written communication you prefer are such fun to give and receive. I love snail mail and am always so happy to receive a letter, postcard or card.
These are just a few suggestions, I am sure you will have many more and will be able to come up with lots and lots of creative ways to use your skills and talents to give to others. Anonymous giving is especially fun as it takes the self interest out of it.
- Give to yourself too
At times I have become a bit over enthusiastic with the giving and I can remember overdoing the clothes clean out and cooking and doing for others, This has left me feeling a bit depleted and can lead me to feel resentful or deserving of appreciation. Something that helps me is to remember to,
Wishing you all a happy, peaceful, safe and healthy Festive Season and New Year.
Love Maree xx