The way North Americans celebrate the holidays has inspired scrutiny for decades now, ever since big retailers realized they could capitalize on the tradition of holiday gift giving.
Ho-ho-ho, give us your money.
On a personal level, the holidays are a celebration of joy, abundance, and community. But the outer manifestation of all that? Shopping in busy stores where people shove, snark, and spend money like there’s no tomorrow. I’ve worked holiday retail for over a decade, and trust me, the whole thing is icky. There’s something incongruous between the reason we give gifts and the way we give gifts.
There are groups of consumerist rebels in North America who are taking the notion of holiday gift-giving into their own hands. We’ll call them the Do-it-Yourself Movement. In some cases they handmake their gifts, but to be a part of this movement one doesn’t need to be terribly crafty. Their goal is simple, instead of being enchanted by the festive promotional hype of big box stores, these people simply use creative means to get to the heart of the matter: What is the purpose of a gift?
When we push aside the glitzy, twinkling lights of holiday shopping, gift-giving at its core is an offering of peace and joy to someone we love. The problem comes when we get stuck in our heads. We panic. Maybe they won’t like just any gift, maybe they’ll only like the gadgets they have on their amazon wishlists or they’ve seen on TV.
A good gift is something that adds peace to life of the receiver. Here are a few creative ways to go about spreading peace this holiday season through the gifts you give.
Sometimes the best gifts are the most unexpected. The kind that someone has thought about for months, carefully collecting all the materials and creating a gift with one person in mind.
To avoid the mayhem of giant craft stores, plan your DIY presents ahead of time and use materials from around the house. Even something as mundane as a glass jar or bottle can become a terrarium, lamp, or hummingbird feeder. Upcycling is not only fun, but it infuses everyday materials with a personalized creative edge.
Also, it’s simply good for the world. Who doesn’t like receiving a gift that was made just for them, and didn’t have to be mass produced by children in a sweatshop?
The Gift of Meditation
Give someone you care about a gift certificate to a meditation class led by a local teacher. The gift of a meditation class is a way to quite literally gift peace.The benefits are far-reaching — both in terms of inner peace and in terms of being of benefit to the world.
Not only does a regular meditation practice help a student learn to let go of all the background noise one encounters in day-to-day life, but the community fostered in a meditation class is a gift in and of itself.
Remember. Sitting meditation isn’t everybody’s cup of tea. If the person you’re thinking of for this gift has trouble sitting for long periods of time, don’t forget that meditation takes many forms. Walking meditation, tai chi, yoga, and mindful breathing all have the same benefits.
The Gift of a Good Story
In this technological age, people are becoming more and more adept at multitasking and skimming through huge amounts of data to glean important takeaways. Sounds like work, doesn’t it?
This holiday season, give your loved ones the gift of stories. Give them books.
Paper bound books, those low-tech Kindles of olde, give modern readers the rare opportunity to practice what’s called “deep reading.” If you’re not familiar with the term, that’s because there didn’t use to be a term for it; it was simply called “reading.” But our collective neural pathways seem to be changing to meet the needs of the technological age. There’s a real difference between how we read on paper and how we read on a screen. On a screen we flit from paragraph to paragraph in order to consume as much of the information as quickly as we can, but on paper we move down the page in a steady, linear way.
Books offer us relief from flitting. This focus lets a reader feel fully immersed in a world, in characters, and in new points of view. That’s the definition of compassion if I’ve ever heard it. Not bad for one measly Christmas gift.
The anti-consumerist movement is not only great for the people who are receiving gifts this holiday season, but it’s got the fringe benefit of being awesome for gift-givers as well. By kicking the idea of the traditionally-hyped shopping season to the curb, buyers give themselves the gift of avoiding the madness of the retail holiday.
There’s nothing wrong with spending money on those you love, the focus is simply that it be spent mindfully in ways that support personal peace, local peace, and global peace. Happy holidays!