Friday, December 16, 2011

Spirit of the Season

This time of year is always rather melancholy for me. I used to have the Christmas spirit, but over time it has faded significantly. One large reason for this is the fact that Christmas has become a retail holiday. There's so much pressure put on people to "buy that perfect gift" or "get it while they last" or "shop our early-bird specials" that it's no wonder people get anxious and depressed around the holidays. We are bombarded well before Thanksgiving even rolls around with special Black Friday Ads. Christmas trees appear in supermarkets almost before the Halloween displays are torn down. Holiday music is piped through loudspeakers to remind us that the season is fast-approaching.

In all this hustle and bustle, behind all the tinsel and glitter, there's a message here, and it's a negative one, in my opinion. We are being trained to buy the love of our family in the form of holiday gifts we'll willingly go broke over. I'm realizing that I've fallen prey to Black Friday sales and special holiday pricing. And I'm realizing how wrong that is.

There is also a focus on rushing around to get everything accomplished. Heck, stores are even open on Christmas Eve for those of us too busy or broke to buy presents beforehand. Rush here, race there, have a quick meal then head out the door onto the next event before you've even had a chance to let your stomach (not to mention your brain) settle. There aren't enough hours in the day to fulfill all of the "holiday obligations" we seem to have.

I spoke with someone recently whose long-term partner had recently died. Apparently, there was a huge fight brewing over who was getting the money, property, et cetera. I bet you anything she would have given the world, or at least all of her worldly possessions, just to get her partner back. The struggle over the material things was causing almost as much stress and grief as the man's death had. It really made me stop and think.

What I'm trying to say is that there is so much more to the holidays than presents and material goods. There's love and friendship, family and friends, laughter and cameraderie, hope for the new year and a fond farewell to what has passed. All of those things are priceless, worth so much more than a few baubles or trinkets or a hasty obligatory visit.

Instead of giving material gifts, focus on what really matters: Time. Take the time to call a relative or friend you haven't talked to in a while. And really listen to what they have to say. Donate your time to help those less fortunate than yourself. Give someone a hug if they need it, a shoulder to cry on. Give of yourself, not of your wallet.

And instead of just doing these things around the holidays, do them throughout the upcoming year. Give of yourself. The gift of time is a valuable one, and it doesn't cost a dime.