The Holiday Season is upon us.
The walls are decked with holly, the houses and rooftops are aglow with lights, jovial Santa is smiling benignly and Rudolf the reindeer is prancing on the lawn. The malls are packed, parking is at a premium and of course the mad rush of shopping for presents continues unabated. I find people slumped on benches and chairs in the mall, exhausted by long hours of hunting for bargains and presents.
Which begs the question, why.
Let us consider the practice of Christmas presents for a moment. Everybody likes presents, I will be the first to admit I do too. But gifts should be hassle-free and spontaneous. They should not be time-delimited or onerous. Children love presents. The look of surprise and pleasure as they breathlessly tear the wrapping off their presents is a joy to watch. But for adults! Do they really need their umpteenth tie, golf club or reindeer themed sweater? You know these will be put away (or re-gifted) at the first opportunity. So, why go through the motions, futilely? Plus, think of the money and resources saved.
Here are some suggestions for holiday gift giving, a way for Happier Holidays and a better life with less. I am sure you will agree it makes sense.
- Restrict presents to children 10 years or younger. There are many toys, books and gadgets to choose from. Objects that stimulate their intellectual curiosity or encourage them to be sociable and better citizens are good. For example, a good book, a soccer ball or a chemistry set is a good present. A toy gun or impossibly shaped Barbie, probably not.
- For adults; if you must, give a gift that shows you care. How about consumables? If you know Aunt Mary likes her gin and tonic and Uncle Harry his Scotch, then a bottle of each would be perfect. You know they would be delighted and you will stay in their good graces.
- One can go a step further. How about bringing a favorite dish that you made with your own hands. It will have the personal touch, nothing says it better than, “Look, I made this just for you.” For example; a rum infused fruitcake, a plate of extra gooey chocolate chip cookies or a perfectly done tandoori chicken. You will create an impression on the receiver and be the talk of the party.
- Make a budget and stick to it. Expensive gifts are fine if you can afford it, but not if you cannot. There is no virtue in overspending. Bills will be due in the New Year and that could lead to a hangover. The parties, gifts and warm fuzzy feelings from last year are by now a distant memory, but the bills are an immediate reality. Remember, for gifts, it is the thought that counts.
The last point is especially important. With the pressures of modern life, we are spending less and less time with our family and friends. We try and compensate with excessive, expensive gifts, to make up for our guilt. It is time we realize what is really of value in this world, and that is quality time with family. So, starting from this season, let us plan on spending more time with our loved ones. Play outside in the snow, toss snowballs. Then come in and bundle up on the sofa. Get a mulled drink or warm eggnog and cuddle in front of the fireplace. Be spontaneous, carefree. Take pictures.
These are the stories you will remember with fondness and tell your children and grandchildren long after the memories of the gifts have evaporated from our collective consciousness. It is possible to live happier with less.