Tips to Simplify the Season
'Tis the season, and a U.S. poll by Harris Interactive reveals that a majority of the stress 90 percent of us feel about the holidays is related to gift-giving. So, solving this problem will set us well on our way to a joyeux noël. The same study found that given a choice, most of us prefer investing in good family relationships instead of more material things, anyway.
Natural Awakenings has uncovered four ways that we can make the holidays less hectic and more relaxing and meaningful. First, says Barbara Kilikevich, author of A Mindful Christmas–How to Create a Meaningful, Peaceful Holiday, we have to stop buying into the notion that more is better and that extravagant, expensive gifts are equal to how much we care for one another. “We need to stop believing that doing it all is productive and having it all is meaningful.”
Homemade gifts are always special. They carry a message of thoughtfulness and love, which is the heart of gift-giving. Making a memorable gift can take less time than we’d spend earning the money for a manufactured gift, driving to the store and back and coping with checkout lines. Ideas are endless; these may stimulate your creative juices.
• Gather favorite family recipes and copy them into a personalized binder.
• Mix jars of tasty combinations of loose teas and/or bulk herbs that might include lavender, chamomile or mint. Add a mesh tea strainer to complete the package.
• Edible items are always a hit. Consider making something yummy that can be given to everyone on the list. Herbed olive oil, spiced nuts and homemade jams are favorites.
• Attractive, reusable shopping bags, made from repurposed or recycled fabric, make practical gifts that can be used again and again. Sew on monograms or paint on designs to personalize them.
• Fashioning painted pottery, custom artwork and decorated picture frames can engage kids in anticipating fun holidays with friends and family.
The Center for a New American Dream, a national nonprofit organization that challenges a “more is better” definition of the good life, suggests giving of oneself—providing gifts of time or experiences that will be long remembered.
• Invite loved ones to an outing to the zoo, a sporting event or an indoor/outdoor picnic.
• Give a friend her dream, based on an expressed interest and careful research. Sign her up for a class in cooking, sewing, photography or dancing—classes abound in most cities.
• Purchase a gift certificate for a local massage, acupuncture session or other soothing therapy as a way to unwind during or after the holiday season.
• Support the local art scene by giving tickets to a community theater or a museum membership.
Previously Enjoyed Gifts
Not every gift needs to be brand-new. Browse vintage and antique shops, estate sales, auctions and consignment stores for amazing treasures. Keep an open mind or go hunting for that certain something for that special someone. Online sources such as EstateSales.net, and gsalr.com can help locate garage, yard and estate sales in communities across the country. Look for items that are unusual or hold special significance.
• A childhood reminder—perhaps a favorite toy or comic book
• Vintage jewelry
• A silk scarf, unusual hat or fun bag
• Classic books, movies and music
• Unique housewares, from vases and candleholders to platters and teacups (Replacements.com can help find missing pieces for sets)
For the Family
For large families or families with grown children, it can be expensive and time-consuming shopping for a gift for every relative. Try one of these ideas to take the pressure off.
• Instead of giving gifts to each member of a family or a couple, think in terms of a single gift for the household.
• Draw names. Have everyone in the family put his or her name into a hat and ask each family member to draw one name, so that each person needs to buy only one or two gifts.
• Set a limit. In his book, Hundred Dollar Holiday: The Case for a More Joyful Christmas, author Bill McKibben suggests that families limit the amount they spend and instead, make the holidays as much fun as possible, filled with song and food, creativity and connection.
With a little planning and a lot of love and care, we can fill the whole holiday season with less stuff and more satisfying joy.
Beth Davis is a contributing writer to Natural Awakenings magazines.