"Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen."
~Author unknown, attributed to a 7-year-old named Bobby
There seems to be a feeling afoot, a movement if you will, to re-examine Christmas and how we celebrate it. It could be the result of several years dealing with a stinky economy, an attempt at meaning and stability in an uncertain world, or perhaps an effort to return to a time where family and true friendship were enough. I'm not sure. My not-so-scientific conclusion, however, is that we aren't celebrating less, we're celebrating more. With all our hearts, in some cases.
I worked retail for several holiday seasons, and let me tell you, I've seen the bottom of the holidays and it ain't pretty. I'd never really seen pure rage until I watched a woman seethe in a lineup during a no tax sale. Add to that the stress that we all put on ourselves during the holiday season and it left me wondering...why? What are we all getting out of this? Because I have a distinct feeling that, if she didn't spontaneously combust in the food court, what Rage Lady's family probably got out of it was their gifts hurled at them during the world's angriest Christmas morning.
During one of our conversations, my husband and I, who both adore Christmas, revealed that we were actually starting to feel sad around the holidays. And so, to paraphrase Mahatma Ghandi's famous quote, we decided to "to be the change we want to see in the world."
In this spirit, we do something a little different every year to fill our hearts with Christmas Cheer (sorry, I couldn't resist!). One year, we only gave gifts that supported a charity, like the World Vision Gift Catalogue or Ten Thousand Villages. Another year we skipped both our family's Christmas dinners and had our own instead and invited a friend who was on their own that holiday season. Yet another year we hosted the family dinner.
What was really neat about all of this was that we realized we weren't the only ones feeling this way. Lots of friends and family were busy injecting meaning into their holiday observances, too! A popular movement back home is the "Adopt a Family" program. I've participated in this at work and it's so much fun. You get a "wish list" with all the kid's wishes. The parents don't usually ask for anything but I don't know anyone who doesn't include at least one special gift for the parents. In addition to the presents, you also purchase everything they'll need for Christmas dinner and stockings. There's also an "Adopt a Senior" program now, and I know some folks (including some seniors!) who are supporting that program this year.
It's not for everyone (and for that, capitalism is eternally grateful). One acquaintance told me in no uncertain terms that they would never be happy without tangible gifts under the tree (in response to the World Vision gifts I was planning). I just think that's sad; I get the warm fuzzies just thinking about how happy my Papa was to "receive" his rooster and two hens. I'm often reminded of the episode of Friends where Phoebe says that good deeds are actually selfish because they make you feel so good. That may be true, Phoebe, but I'm willing to chance it!
This year, I'm embracing homemade gifts. I've been crafting up a storm and I'm really excited about them! My inspiration has been the Christmas Eve excitement that was felt around my in-law's tree a few years ago, when my husband's aunt handed out the hand-knit presents she'd made everyone. But more about that on Wednesday, when I'm going to share with you Tips for Having a Happy (and Organized!) Homemade Holiday!
Here is a list of quick and easy ways to add some heartfelt meaning to your holiday celebration:
- Don't forget our furry friends! Most shelters are in need of food, litter, and even old blankets and towels! Pick up a bag of kibble and drop it off at your local shelter today!
- Here's a warm fuzzy that's actually warm and fuzzy (and costs nothing at all except time). Many animal shelters are looking for volunteers to walk dogs or cuddle cats; what a perfect holiday outing for you and your family! (Be sure to call first, some shelters have age restrictions on who can actually handle animals).
- Many grocery stores and restaurants have drop boxes for food bank donations. Pick up some non-perishables and give a gift that will resonate well past the holiday season. Some grocery stores even sell pre-packaged kits of the items most needed in your area .
- Keep your community safe! Volunteer to be the designated driver for a Christmas party, or volunteer with your community's safe drive home program (if they have one). You could even commit a Random Act of Kindness and spring for a cab for someone who needs one.
- Speaking of Random Acts of Kindness, a popular movement is to pay for the car behind you in the drive-though line at a coffee shop. See a frazzled looking mom in a van behind you? You could make her day!
- Contact your local hospital, senior's home, or assisted living facility and inquire if there's anything you could do to brighten someone's holiday. Think carol singing is cheesy? Then you've never done it in a hospital or senior's home (be sure to bring Kleenex!)
- Another RAOK! Next time it snows, take a moment to shovel the steps of your neighbor (especially if they're elderly).
- A classic Christmas practice is to volunteer at your local soup kitchen to serve Christmas dinner. You'll look at the blessing that is your home and life with new eyes.
I could go on and on, but frankly, I'm interested in your ideas! Share in the comments; I may even include your idea in one of my holiday posts!
Wednesday is a big day, as it is kicking off 25 days of Nesty! I'll be keeping to my Monday, Wednesday, Friday posting schedule, but on the days in between I'll be sharing snippets of Christmas Cheer! See you then!