As the Christmas season approached this past year, I felt a ball of Grinch-like-frustration and fear growing in my chest. It was Colin and my first year married, and as a result, our family circles had expanded. I love both our families and feel incredibly blessed every time we spend time with them, but the thought of gift shopping was clouding my normally positive outlook. My gift-panic normally run through this circuit:
- I suck at buying gifts. It's not my love language. Unless it's a book. I excellll at books, and my specialty is used books. I've come to learn that not all people appreciate either of those things, especially used.
- I've been known to become emotionally unstable in most retail settings. (Except, obviously, used book stores)
- Where are we going to get the money for this? And how can I justify buying something that I don't even know if they'll like or if it's good or if either us will even remember in a year?
It's grinchy. I know. But I struggle with it. It came down to an issue of 'showing love' for me. We give gifts because we want to show someone we love them, yes? Whereas if we give someone something because we feel like we have to, then it's not really a gift, and thus not really a great way to show love, right?
So Colin and I had a challenge in front of us. We wanted to show our family members love. And we wanted to do it willingly, freely, and wholeheartedly, without a Grinch-heart-three-sizes-too-small showing through. So we decided to get creative and try and give gifts that we were really excited to give.
A few years ago, my grandma decided to give our family a lump amount of money for gifts rather than buying us individual gifts, as I'm sure that got harder and harder to do with 18 grandchildren. It turned out to be the best thing ever as my parents decided to put it towards a family day adventure where we would not only enjoy good food and fun activities, but also enjoy a full day of each other. It has turned into one of our most looked forward to things all year! We've begun to practice the habit of giving experience rather than things, so Colin and I decided to take a page from that book for our Christmas gifts.
What followed was some very fun and special days with different family members, some unique learning on what 'gifts' really are, as well as a renewed excitement for future Christmases...
Colin and Riise went Snowboarding and played video games, and consumed some nutritious meals of McDonalds and Little Caesars. While I was not a part of this date, it was still special to me to see the oldest of the kids and the youngest spending a whole day together. Colin said he thought it was a lot of fun hanging out with someone so much younger than him, and learning a bit more about Riise's personality (fearless...). He also loved just being able to spend a whole day treating someone else!
Emily and I went on a cultural excursion, checking out some of the Chinese New Year festivities, learning about East Village, and eating delicious Sushi! We also had a typical girl lounge by eating doughnuts while watching Pitch Perfect. I loved just having a full day to chat, laugh, and take pictures with her, and we both thought we should do it again sooner than Christmas.
We got really lucky by getting both Sacha and Luke in our Chubachi sibling draw (they are married) and so decided to plan a "Choose Your Own Adventure" type date for them. We loved being able to spend a full day with the both of them out in Canmore, hearing more about their lives and their dreams, eating yummy treats, and skating on slushy ice!
Finally we did our parent gifts, which are still not complete (that's part of the fun, we get to celebrate these people for months after Christmas!), as we have yet to have an evening with our Chubachi parents! As for the Bergmann parents, we loved introducing them to a Raclette meal, and getting to have a whole evening to chat with them without any distraction. Of course I love the hubbub of my whole family, but it's a rare and special event to have relaxed and uninterrupted conversation with just them.
There were a few things that I learned from this style of gifting...
- This way of gifting is not necessarily cheaper or less effort. BUT those things barely crossed our minds when planning and giving them. We would plan and make it work because we were so darn excited to do it with our family.
- This style of giving has a lot to do with our love language. This was the way we did it this Christmas, but it is not the way to avoid materialism or consumerism or blah blah blah. Our goal was to give because we wanted to and not because we felt like we had to. Our love language is not gifts, which is a large part of why gift-giving became a struggle for us. Our love language IS quality time, so we decided to really dig down into our experience and creativity to create a gift that we were so excited to give. On the other hand, my sister and mother-in-law amaze me at their creativity and intelligence in giving physical gifts that the receivers love. I would not tell someone who excels at gift-giving to change how they do it, I would want them to lean into their style!
- Getting creative this past Christmas has opened me up to the possibilities of the future (and this does, in fact, relate to the consumerism that has taken over the Christmas season). What can we do different next Christmas to put a greater focus on love and community? How can we create traditions so that our eventual children will gain a new perspective on Christmas? How can we personally continue to put the emphasis on Jesus and not get caught up in trying to do things the 'best way' or 'save the most money'?
- Overall, it has challenged me to do things not out of frustration, but out of joy.
So I wonder, what are your ideas? What do you do with your family to fight the feelings of stress, reluctance, and general Grinchy-ness, and instead embrace the joy of the season in a creative way? (and this can really apply to any holiday or season...) I'd love to hear your ideas!