Holidays… It’s so easy to forget that the very name is an elision of “Holy Days.” And they are Holy: the short days, the predominance of grey skies in many places, the extra layers of clothes so many climates invite us to don all encourage an extra measure of introspection, even in this era of electric light and flat screens.
As we turn inside, we find so many images, so many voices. The ones we cherish, the ones who’ve grown us, supported us and challenged us belong to people we might want to honor and communicate our gratitude toward by a token of our affection.
I heard someone say today that it’s easier to give than to receive. I think this is true for lots of reasons. When we receive, we can take ourselves out of the moment of feeling appreciated by immediately thinking of what did we get the giver? is it enough? is it what they wanted? am I deserving? It takes some spiritual discipline to simply receive, heart open, gratitude spilling over.
We honor what we find by turning inward when we give, but so often the ritual has become legalized and the demands brittle, constricting. Worthwhile, then, to imagine what would bring holiness, honor and play back to the ritual. Let’s start with our gift list. Decide in advance who you will be choosing for, and do this by noticing what bubbles up. So often we decide by remembering who gifted us last year. There is something sweet in this, but when it is done on the basis of expectation and the fear of being empty handed, we are blocking our own ability to feel worthy, to allow pure generosity on the parts of others and avoiding possibly uncomfortable emotions. And if they really do expect reciprocation? OK. They can expect it and there’s another opportunity for us to simply be with what comes up. They might not get you anything next year! OK too. Sit with that.
Now that you have a conscious list, allow for small things to bubble up. You might not have the sweet person who helps you at work on the list yet, but when you go to the tea store, you remember the tins on his desk. Pick out a few ounces of something lovely, just enough to communicate “I remember your sweetness.”
So, a thoughtful list, some room for spontaneity… now a budget. A budget! How does that go with spontaneity?!? Guiltlessly. Just like consciously decided who you want to honor this year, this is another way of creating awareness about resources and maintaining your awareness that thoughtfulness doesn’t require dollar signs. So maybe you set 10 dollars per person, or 25, or 2 or 5 or 50. Good. Remember equality of dollar signs also doesn’t represent anything about meaning.
One of my favorite ways to really engage the process is to give handmade gifts. I know! It sounds either pricey or time consuming! But maybe it doesn’t have to be. Last year I gave homemade bath salts in 4″x5″ decorative bags available at Michael’s craft store as gift bags.
For each pound of epsom salts, add half a pound
of baking soda, stir until evenly distributed.
Mix in paper grogery bags and use as many
pounds as you want for 3 bags per person.
You’ll get about 6 bags (of the size I used) out of
I used three fragrances, obtaining the essential
oils at the local school for massage therapy.
I used rose, orange blossom and sandlewood.
Add essential oils and mix again. Let sit for a
day or more and then scoop into gift bags.
Homemade marshmallows are easy and fun and can be made vegan! It’s easy to flavor them with vanilla or peppermint to add flavor to hot chocolate or coffee.
I found etsy today, too, and was impressed with both quality and price. These are handmade gifts, just not by you 🙂 My fave by far are by Mormar, though I should’ve told you that before I cleaned her out:P
Another stress-reducing strategy is to buy multiples of books and DVDs that have added depth and sparkle to your life. Then, each person you’ve chosen to give to gets one or more of this pile of inspiration and something else to make it personal. These can be collected in gift bags (maybe paper grocery bags with quotes on them?) and added to as the weeks go by and you encounter small items of joy. My current recommendations are Blink, Malcolm Gladwell’s trenchant examination of our sublinguistic preferences and processing, The Book of Awakening, Mark Nepo’s daily dose of gentle clarity, the DVD Ghengis Blues, an indescribable tale of a blues singer, some throat singers, an ancient culture, a timeless grief and healing, and finally for the more intrepid, Shortcut to Nirvana, a thouroughly contingent journey to one of the largest, most chaotic spiritual festivals ever the telling of which proves that enlightenment and spirit are composed of the sheer, delightful randomness of our beings thrown together, shaken, and yes, stirred and allowed to settle out. Be advised, some of the practices shown are indelicate, to say the least.