Holidays can feel overwhelmingly about consumerism. The season can begin to feel more about giving stuff than fostering connections with loved ones. Remembering that the most important thing you can give is time, however, is one simple way to take the focus away from shopping. Consider making your “presence” your real “present” this holiday season!
Start by thinking about who you want to give to and then reflect on how you could spend time together in a meaningful way, which isn’t always the same as what you want to do with them. Think about joining them where they find joy. For example, I would love my husband to come to yoga or kickboxing with me. His preference is that I run or hike with him. Giving is about what the other person wants to receive, not about what you want to give.
If you can’t be there in person, you can still think about the things that bring your loved ones the most joy and then plan a way for them to experience more. Your ability to be present while thinking about what your loved one would enjoy will make your holiday gifts a hit.
The following are 10 creative options that range from free to a combination of “present with presence.”
1. Give the Gift of Learning—Register for a Class
Not only will you spend time together on an ongoing basis, but you become one another’s accountability partners to go to class. There is such a range of fun things to learn, you are only limited by your imagination. Try gifting one of the Chopra Center’s online courses in meditation, Ayurveda, or wellness.
2. Give a Movie Night
This can either be a night where you go out to a movie or you can watch a movie at home. Another version of this gift might be to gift a movie night out while you watch the children. Make sure you think about the whole experience including parking, treats, and even movie choice. A wonderful plan can be to suggest a free movie (using Netflix or the like) that you think someone will love to watch and then provide snacks to match the film. Think Murder on the Orient Express and your homemade stir-fried rice or Serendipity with hot chocolate and ice cream.
3. Give a Treasure Hunt
Think creatively to make a game or puzzle out of the season. It could be a “12 days of Christmas” theme beginning with one step and ending at the final clue on day 12. Or you could do an “8 days of Hanukkah” theme that includes light in each small gift.
4. Cook and Deliver the Results to the Recipient
Make a family recipe and freeze it. Bake some squares. Have the whole family pitch in, then deliver it or have it shipped. Include recipes or videos of what you enjoyed about making this for the recipient.
5. Schedule a Shopping Time When You Will Pick Out a Seasonal Item of Clothing Together
Shopping in the holiday season can be a dreadful task. Make it better by planning a trip to the store of your gift recipient’s choice where you will try on clothes (without complaining) and then pick his or her gift from the day’s selection.
6. Volunteer in Someone's Name
There is always one person on your list who needs nothing. Choose a cause that he or she supports and volunteer on his or her behalf. If you can do it in advance, you can even include some photos when you share the surprise.
7. Take Over Someone’s Chores
This is a great gift for children to give one another. My son’s job is separating our recycling and his brother will give him an occasional week off as a gift.
8. Give Someone Some Alone Time
Think about the stage of life your recipients are in. If they are young parents who also work outside of the home, time to themselves is a rare commodity. If they are recently retired they might prefer time together. Put it on your calendar and let them relax!
9. Start a New Tradition
This one is only limited by your imagination. A few favorites are restaging old family photos, picking a new seasonal movie to watch together, putting up someone’s holiday decorations for them, or making wreaths from downed branches after a storm.
10. Give Something Homemade by You
Jam, soap, lasagna, or spice mix—the list of options is endless. I like making a gift of words—filming each family member saying what they love about someone and emailing it as a special surprise.
Remember, just because you are focused on giving presence doesn’t mean that a present is a bad thing. You can choose gifts in an intentional way that makes the gift, coupled with your presence, an added bonus. It really is the thought that matters. Think about how you express your creativity. For some this might be baking or making seasonal decorations whereas others are great with organizing and could offer a closet or junk drawer makeover. What are your strengths that others could benefit from?
Giving and receiving go hand in hand. When you give with love it warms your heart. Remember to receive with gratitude, also. Holiday giving can be either a spirit booster or it can bring out your inner grinch. The choice is yours.