I think I’ve finally figured something out: The holidays aren’t about love, although that’s certainly part of it. They aren’t about giving or getting something, although that’s a huge focus for people, too. They aren’t about who can put up the most lights, who gets the best presents, or whose dinner is the tastiest.
What are the holidays about, you ask?
They are about gratitude.
Even better, when we focus on giving gratitude rather than just some material goods, the holidays get so much happier.
Think about it:
What you are really doing when you give a gift is saying, “I appreciate you.” When you share dinner with your families or friends, you are letting them know that they are important, that they mean something to you, that you want to be there with them.
When you spend time picking out that perfect gift for your mom, you are really recognizing that she sacrificed for you, that you are grateful for the little choices that she made throughout the years that have allowed you to be here, safe and sound.
When you get excited by finding something your dad will just love, what you are really saying is, “I know he will know that I noticed that he was always there for all the important stuff. I know he had to do things that he didn’t like very much in order to make sure that we had a good life.”
Decorating the house just perfectly so that your kids will wake up Christmas morning and be greeted by the very best sights, sounds, and smells is really a way to show your children that you appreciate having them in your life. It’s a way—whether they’d be able to articulate it or not—to let them know there isn’t a day that goes by that doesn’t remind you how precious they are to you.
When you pick out something from the heart for your spouse—or, perhaps even better, create something for him or her—you are actually symbolizing your gratitude for all of the times that he or she held you when you were sad, or cheered with you when you had a great day, or held your hand over the dinner table.
Heck, even our pets deserve our gratitude; after all, is there a more loyal, loving being out there than your precious dog or cat? I went out and got a new dog bed for my beloved mutt. I am truly grateful beyond measure to have him in my life, and I think, somehow, he’ll know that when he sets paw into his plush new bed. (I’ve hidden it in the house so that he doesn’t see it before Christmas day! Yes, I am that crazy.)
Whatever you are grateful for this holiday season, stop yourself before you grab that easy-to-purchase gift card. Yes, they are a token of appreciation, but aren’t they really just saying, “Here’s some cash that you can use at a store I think you like?” I’m not sure that’s really in the spirit of the season.
Instead, ask yourself: What could you buy, create, or do that would really honor all that person means to you?
As I pondered all of this, I finally realized why I’ve never cared all that much about getting presents. What I really love is for someone that I care about to spend a little extra time with me—to go out to lunch together, to head out for a movie, to take a long drive and laugh and chat. If you want to make me happy, that’ll do it.
I bet there are a lot of people that feel like that. Maybe, instead of exorbitant gifts, focus on being totally present with someone in your life. Perhaps an elderly grandparent could use someone to shovel their snow this winter; create a lovely certificate that offers to do just that. Maybe your spouse would really love if you arranged to have the kids at grandma’s for the weekend, while you reconnect at a cabin.
So, this holiday season, focus on the gratitude you have for the people and animals you have in your life. Be grateful for life itself. Be grateful for the sun and the moon and the stars and all that is awesome and beautiful in this world.
What if we all started a tradition of simply living the entire holiday season in gratitude for all of it? It would be a very different energy for all of us, that is for sure!
Let’s do it - let’s change the focus of the holidays this year from “I want” to “I have, and I am so grateful for it all.”
And if you feel like it, give a gift that really keeps on giving. You can give a donation in a favorite person's name to a charity they love; my favorite is Heifer.org. Not only do you show that honor things that are important to your loved one, but you also give a gift that helps someone you don't even know.
I bet St. Nick would really be happy with that one!
Do you have any Christmas traditions that are different from the norm? How about ideas for gifts that let people know that you love them? I'd love to hear them...