Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does. ~William James
This past weekend when I was driving down Burlingame Avenue, I saw the word “Merry” painted on the window in Pottery Barn. In the corner of my eye, I could see holiday colors and what looked to be a Christmas tree. “Christmas? We haven’t had Halloween yet!” I thought to myself.
When I was growing up, the holidays meant making cookies with my Mom, caroling in the neighborhood, and a few gifts from Santa. I never made a list, nor did I have expectations of what would be under the tree. Holidays weren’t about the gifts but rather being with my parents, my brothers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. I loved the togetherness.
After I got married, the holidays became stressful: splitting time between my family and my husband’s, making gift lists, buying presents and all the various Secret Santa and gift exchanges. The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas was a blur of shopping, wrapping, and frenzy; by the time December 26th rolled around, I faced the chore of cleaning up, putting gifts away, and writing thank-you notes.
Two years ago, my husband and I decided to cut back on gift giving and give each of our sons one gift each, the one thing each had been begging for all year: a new iPhone.
The tree looked beautiful and so peaceful without a pile of presents underneath. The boys were thrilled to find an iPhone for each of them carefully hidden in the tree. My younger son could not stop saying “Best Christmas ever!” as he grinned from ear to ear. It felt good to have a simple Christmas morning, little to clean up, and time hanging out together.
Last year, we downsized gift giving again: each of our sons received a book, clothes, and cash. For the second year in a row, clean up was easy and there were no feelings of remorse from overindulging or getting caught up in buying a bunch of stuff. The kids were happy with fewer gifts and we enjoyed Christmas morning together as a family.
This year I suggested each of us make a wish list consisting of four items:
Something I want
Something I need
Something to wear
Something to read
Our sons like the idea and have started to think about what they will put on their list. In the meantime, my husband and I planned a family outing to Cirque du Soleil; “Time with family” fitting perfectly under “I want” and the “I need” categories.
Moving to a minimalistic Christmas doesn’t mean giving up gifts or dreams; instead, it provides the opportunity to give something you can’t buy at Pottery Barn or anywhere else: the gift of time and making memories with those who are important.
I’d like to think that what I am doing, will make a difference – and after hearing the positive response from my family, I know it will.