This holiday season I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of choosing presence over presents. I’ve become very aware that the focus of the holiday season has shifted from celebrating this sacred time of year with the people we love, to overconsuming, overeating, overdrinking, overspending, and overdoing it in general. This is crazy behavior and I’ve decided to put an end to it for myself and my family.
I didn’t always feel this way. After my mom passed away when I was 20, I spent the greater part of a decade despising the holidays. My mother had adored Christmas and always went out of her way to make it an extra special time of year for our family. I felt that with her being gone, there was nothing left to celebrate. So, I didn’t. I spent every year in a quiet depression, either overdrinking and overeating to numb myself at every family function, or simply just avoiding them completely. As the years progressed, my depression started to lift a bit, and that’s when I started to equate buying presents with showing love. I was the crazy person shopping at all hours of the night and couldn’t be more thrilled when the department stores started being open until midnight. I would drive myself to the ground each year trying to make sure that every single person was accounted for, and stressed myself out battling the crazed holiday shoppers throughout the entire month of December. Not to mention that I always left things until the last minute, which only added to my anxiety level.
It wasn’t until I got married, and then last year when I became a mother, that I realized that the way I was acting was completely insane. I started to feel that similarly to how I had equated my mother’s presence as setting the tone for my family’s holiday season, this was now my responsibility in my own household. Now that I was a mother, I felt very strongly that it was up to me to choose the type of holiday experience that I want to cultivate for my family. This changed everything for me. I want my daughter growing up in a home that values the true meaning of the holidays. I want her to grow up with memories of the special times we share together as a family; decorating our tree, listening to Christmas carols, making pancakes Christmas morning, going for walks to the beach on Christmas day, getting together with the extended family and laughing and playing with her cousins. This is what’s truly important. I don’t want her memories to be of her mother being a madwoman who is incapable of being truly present because she is consumed with buying presents!
So this year, I’m doing it differently. My husband and I each chose one present to gift to each other, and some small gifts to give to our daughter. We are thinking of taking a family trip to Cape May, our favorite place, as our big gift to one another. Other than that, I have done away with the entire idea of buying gifts. Instead, I am making homemade presents that will be thoughtful and given with love. I am finding ideas for experiences to do together with my extended relatives instead of buying each other a bunch of stuff that none of us need. Instead of giving each other material gifts, we will be having spa days, spending an afternoon at a favorite tea shop, going to see plays, and taking day trips to favorite locations. I know that these memories will be so much more meaningful and special. I am excited and looking forward to making this change! Here are my best tips for choosing Presence over Presents this holiday season.
- Be thoughtful – If you are choosing to give your loved ones the gift of a shared experience together, it would be extra special to choose something that is meaningful to them. Gift your husband tickets to his favorite sporting event or share a dinner at a restaurant where you went on your first date, take your Elsa and Anna obsessed daughter to see Disney on Ice, enjoy a yoga class with your zen best friend, and go to a painting class with your cousin the art enthusiast. Be thoughtful, and choose experiences that your loved one would enjoy. Make it unique to them and their interests.
Be present – The most important part of this gift exchange is to be fully present while partaking in the shared experience. Shut your phone off or leave it at home. Enjoy the experience by giving it your full and undivided attention. Be completely with your loved ones and live in the moment of the shared memories that you are presently making. Have fun and give the gift of your full presence. These are the moments that will last a lifetime.
Be happy – The whole point of gifting your loved ones with shared experiences is to create happy memories. So work on making yourself happy first. This time of year can get very hectic, so do whatever you need to do to balance your stress level. Prioritize your own self care, and make sure you are taking care of yourself first, so that you have the energy to give to your loved ones. By making yourself happy, that happiness will extend to everyone around you. Give your loved ones the gift of a happy you!
Sending you well wishes for a fully present holiday experience.
I’ve created a free Holiday Survival Kit if you are looking for some extra guidance on creating a stress-free holiday season. I would love nothing more than to have all of us gift our families the gift of a holiday season focused on love and presence. You can download it for free by clicking on the picture below. Wishing you a beautiful & intentional holiday. Enjoy! xo