12-15-2007 - Christmas 2007 - Family, Joy, and Sanity
The Gift of Sanity at Christmas
Holidays are all about rituals, and rituals are meant to create meaning for people. Nowadays, though, holidays often revolve around obligations, expectations, and going through the motions of things. It’s no wonder that people often end up feeling tired and disappointed rather than renewed. It’s no small feat to try to fit a whole year’s worth of passion and generosity into a couple of days.
It may be better to give than to receive, but it’s easy to forget that sentiment when you’ve just spent three hours braving the mob at your local mall. Gifts are meant to be symbols of love, but this sweet idea easily turns into the stress. People spend an enormous amount of time and energy roaming the stores or flipping through catalogs in a desperate attempt to demonstrate love to their families. They also spend a vast amount of money, which often means starting the new year in debt.
The irony is that fancy, expensive gifts may mean more to the giver than to the receiver. This is most apparent with children. One or two gifts that don’t even have to cost much will totally satisfy them. When you overwhelm children with too many gifts, they get caught up in the materialistic frenzy of the adults, tearing the gifts open, then tossing them aside. Fifty gifts may not be as satisfying to them as a set of cookie cutters for making cookies in the afternoon. In contrast to costly trinkets, young and old alike almost always appreciate gifts of time and attention. Handmade gifts also show how much you care, and making them is an effective stress reliever for many people.
Keep your Christmas expectations grounded in reality. Put some effort into creating new traditions that suit your family and budget. Sit down and think about what would please your family as a unit. For example, you might want to all go ice-skating or watch a favorite movie together. Whatever you do, keep the focus on people rather than things, and realize that not everything has to be perfect.
Allow enough time for rest and relaxation, too. The holidays are supposed to be joyous occasions marked by meaningful traditions, family connections, spiritual rejuvenation and just plain fun. Just remember to take care of yourself!