Published by Kerry Meath-Sinkin
The holidays are filled with gifts. At times I look around at a world filled with “stuff”, an environment that is suffering for it, and I ask myself “should there be so many things used to embrace the holidays.” This makes me question the whole process of giving gifts, especially with my children. Then I see their eyes light up when they get a gift, and my heart melts.
I also know that my family shows their love and appreciation through gift. It feels wrong to deny them that pleasure. When I remember all of the positives I start to feel guilty and bit like a Debbie Downer.
The question then becomes how can I relate to the gift process in a way that feels authentic and flowing? I decided to do a little research and I found some helpful articles. Similar to what I was feeling, studies and surveys show that people are frustrated by the commercialism and tempted to opt out of gift giving. 1. This validated my experience because even though no one is talking about it, many of us feel the same way on some level. However, it does not provide any insight on striking a nourishing balance.
The exchange of gifts has played a role in our world for centuries.2 Giving gifts is an important part of human interaction that helps to define relationships and strengthen bonds with family and friends. Studies have found that it is often the giver who reaps the biggest psychological gain from the gift.
Ellen J Langer, a Harvard psychology professor, states that “If I don’t let you give me a gift, then I’m not encouraging you to think about me and think about things I like. I am preventing you from experiencing the joy of engaging in all those activities. You do people a disservice by not giving them the gift of giving.” (
If giving gifts is important, and we are all frustrated by it, how can we personally and collectively honor the flow of giving and receiving gifts in a way that feels thoughtful and loving. Is it possible to give and receive in a way that allows children to feel loved and honored, but not spoiled? To give in a way that honors the planet, and tries to work with our environment and not against it? To give in a way that allows us to feel free and abundant, and not controlling, judged, or consumeristic? Here are a few ideas I find helpful.
Focusing on Tradition
Traditions can help bring more satisfaction and meaning to the holidays. Families report higher levels of happiness when Christmas is focused on family and rituals (religious or otherwise), and report a lower well-being when Christmas is focused on spending money and gifts.3
Modern society has fewer rituals, but if traditions/rituals bring more happiness to the holidays, is this something to consider? The nice part is that rituals don’t have to cost money, and they can be whatever is meaningful to you. The most popular event that my son’s Waldorf school does every year is something called the “winter spiral.” This non-sectarian ritual welcomes winter. It represents a time to turn inward to find our own inner light. During the winter spiral the only sound is a celtic harp. Each child walks with an unlit beeswax candle through the spiral towards the central flame. The child then lights their flame and starts walking back out the spiral in search of a place to set the candle. The child sets the light for all to see among glittering candles and greens. While the room is dark to start, it becomes filled with lights illuminating the spiral and the room. I find this to be a lovely ritual that my child greatly enjoys being a part of.
While we do not do anything as elaborate as this in our home, we try to find little traditions that will become more meaningful as they are repeated throughout the years. If you think about it, I am sure you can find many small traditions or rituals with your family that makes you feel more at home. By thinking about these little family traditions we can make sure we keep them alive and also come up with small things that we want to do consistently over the years. These small traditions will get more meaningful and familiar over time.
Taking an Extra Moment
Time is limited, and it can be difficult thinking of gifts for everyone on your list. It is hard sometimes not to get gifts to just check it off the list. But here’s the thing, when we put more time and care into a gift, I find we feel a lot better about giving the gift. What’s nice is that we can all do it in a way that is authentic to us. It might be taking a few extra moments to think about what the person cares about. It might be trying to get a gift that won’t end up in the trash or the closet in a week. It might be shopping in a way that feels more socially conscious to support local businesses or a gift that has a lower impact on the environment. I think just the simple act of taking a few extra moments to be aware of what or how we give is a great start.
Sometimes I get stuck focusing on the gift itself and whether or not I think it is a good gift for a myriad of reasons. When I do this, my heart closes and I can’t appreciate what is really going on. Then I take a moment to change my perspective. By changing my focus to thinking about the person giving the gift, appreciating who they are and the role they play in my life, I am able to appreciate the giving and receiving on a more meaningful level. All gifts come from a place of love, and a gift is so much more about the giver than the receiver.
I hope this sparked an idea, or served as a reminder, to help make your holidays a touch more rewarding. I wish you a holiday filled with appreciation, loving giving, and joyous receiving!
Kerry Meath-Sinkin is a registered investment advisor and financial planner based in Minneapolis. She graduated with honors from Brown, and works with clients not only in the Twin Cities, but nationwide. Kerry believes in a holistic approach to finance. She works with her clients to develop a practical plan with their finances, while also working on their inner relationship with money. Together, these aspects allow clients to feel healthy, abundant, and free. Kerry also has a passion for healthy living, is a certified Ayurvedic practitioner, and public health educator. Click here to learn more about Kerry.