Christmas Eve is upon us and by now I would usually be sick of chocolate, having been unable to control myself around the Ferrero Rocher’s. But this Christmas is different….. It’s simple….. and that is what’s making it magical.
I love giving presents, putting a lot of thought into matching the perfect gift and being genuinely excited to see the recipient squeal with delight when they open it. ‘How did you know I wanted that?!’. I pay attention.
In recent years, with nieces and nephews in the mix, a growing family meant a growing pile of presents, but not just amongst the children. Presents were bountiful amongst the adults; I spoiled everyone from my Sister to my Grandparents and they spoiled me. Thousands of pounds painstakingly saved all year, happily blown in one day, all in the name of Christmas giving.
Meeting my husband changed everything.
My husband is very non-materialistic and this inadvertently shifted the focus of our Christmas celebrations. In the run-up to Christmas last year we didn’t even talk about what to buy each other, it didn’t even enter our thoughts. You see, the hubby rarely wants for anything and when he does he just goes and buys it for himself. Conversely, I love nice things and could easily write a list of gifts I would love, but a new found desire of simple, slow living means I now try to focus on buying things that are functional, practical and essential (but pretty too!). Christmas gifts, therefore, feel so unnecessary to us.
Friends were very shocked by this. Most assume it’s a financial thing – after all in today’s consumer society, it’s completely unfathomable that people would choose not to buy gifts for any other reason than lack of money!
People equate gifts to a measure of love and status; I have seen how easy it is to get sucked into this world of competing, people looking forward to showing off a new watch or handbag on Instagram, adding the obligatory caption ‘I have the best husband/wife in the world’.
Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with presents, it’s that the message behind them is often lost. Charles Dickens tried to teach us the meaning of Christmas in his much-loved novella ‘A Christmas Carol’. It’s a beautiful read, highlighting that love and friendship are more important than wealth. You know the drill: it’s the love and thought that goes into the gift that makes it special but of course, there are other ways to show love too, besides gifts.
For our families, gift giving has evolved and simplified. My husbands family do Kris Kringle/Secret Santa every year, which initially was very foreign to me. Briefly: all the adults names are written down on paper, folded and put into a ‘hat’. You each select one name at random, buying a gift for that person (at a pre-agreed value) and give anonymously on Christmas Day. We all then chip in for presents for the children as usual.
After my father died last year, life drastically changed and the financial implications were huge. The extravagance of our past Christmases, whilst treasured memories, seemed excessive and unnecessary. So as a family we have all agreed to also adopt the KK tradition to ease the financial pressures for all and I wish we had done it sooner!
KK has shifted the focus from the gifts to the actual company and day itself; it puts the emphasis back on family values and being ‘present’. There is no pressure of blowing the budget on gifts and even the Christmas dinner duties are split up amongst family members, so one person doesn’t have to foot the bill.
We have always made Christmas Day as fun as possible, but I think this year it will take on a new meaning, as less time is spent on opening gifts, leaving more time to engage with each other.
‘There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour.’ Â
– Charles Dickens, ‘A Christmas Carol’
For my family, this means sharing funny stories over tea whilst the turkey cooks, reading corny cracker jokes at the table, evening karaoke battles with my Grandparents and even some light exercise doing ‘Just Dance’ on the Wii! All of a sudden these things seem so much more endearing – a chance to make memories with those that are dear to us – something now vital to me, having seen how precious and fragile life can be.
So yes, it seems we are living the Dickensian clichÃ© of Christmas spirit, a time for family and love…..
And it is blissful.
A very Merry Christmas to you and yours.
Ps. My tips on How to Live with IntentionÂ
PPS. I’m a sucker for a good quote on a beautiful image, so this if for you to share: