I absolutely love the Christmas season. I enjoy listening to Christmas music and decorating the house. I love looking at decorations claiming streets and homes and yards. I love searching out special gifts and wrapping them up in pretty paper. I love the excitement I see in my children with the upcoming visit of Santa Claus. I love being in a church filled with decorated trees and Christmas flowers and the peaceful concept of Baby Jesus. I love the booming fireowrks and lighted skies during the New Year's celebration. I love going as a family and finding our perfect tree, wrestling with boxes from the attic and knotted together strings of lights. I love being surrounded by family and friends.
But what I don't love about Christmas is the feeling that giving brings when it swallows you up whole and becomes a competition. My favorite thing to do is find what I consider a perfect gift for a friend or family member, or making something I think they will love, and getting it to them so their eyes can twinkle during their Christmas celebration. However, sometimes when I find that perfection, or create that perfection, I am troubled. Troubled by wondering if they think it is enough, or will understand the meaning behind what I have chosen especially for them. Troubled by the fact that my measly 5 euro gift cannot compare to the 30 euro they have invested in me. Because, for me, the gift is NOT about the value or quantity, but about the quality...and the quality can only come in the form of giving from the heart, spotting that perfect gift through a store window and then lovingly handing over the cash, whatever the dollar amount, knowing you ahve chosen something your special friend or family member will either 1)love, 2) be able to use or 3) bring back a special memory of past days.
Yesterday, I spent the day with friends of mine at a Christmas market. We enjoyed wandering through the stalls and picking up a few odds and ends. On the way there, my one friend said: Oh no, I forgot to get M a gift. Maybe I can pick her something up at the markets. I thought that was a good compromise. As we wandered the stalls, she could decide what our other friend would love and then purchase it as a surprise. I, however, did not bring a gift, nor did I plan to buy one for this particular friend. We have neevr exchanged gifts, and if I see something I think she'll like, I pick it up and give it to her....but not as a necessary Christmas exchange. But when we got the the market and started looking at all the Christmas surprises, it turned into a money game. "I am going to buy you something for Christmas today, so let me know what you like," my one friend said. "Well, only if I can buy something for you in return," said the other. And then the game began. One purchased one thing, and the other purchased another to reciprocate. And it kept going on that way all through the afternoon. And I admit, it was starting to drive me crazy, because it became more a game of who could out-give rather than finding that special feeling of choosing a perfect gift. And at the end of the evening, my girlfriend said "" Well, I got nearly all my shopping done today. I got a little something for you and her and her......but, I need to just get a little something more and then I'll be done." And what I felt, instead of excited that she'd found me a perfect gift, was a bit of a let down that she needed to have even more for me. Why wasn't what she bought for me enough? If it was something she thought I would love, something she had hand-chosen becuase it suited me, why did she need more to round it off? I could care less of the dollar value or if my 2 euro gift is equal in price to my friend's 10 euro gift. I certainly don't need more junk to clutter my shelves, but I always love a gift when I know it was spcially chosen for me, and my shelves of special things grow because I know they have special meaning from whomever has chosen it for me. Or at least I hope they have special meaning.
Anyway, through all of this, I worried that maybe I was going to let my friend down by not equalling her 20 or 30 or 40 euro's worth of purcahses. I mean, she gives to all four of us, and they have only 2 to buy for and maybe I was supposed to buy even more to make the dollar values equal in our families. I want her to feel special, and I want her to enjoy the gifts I give to her, but without the expectation that it must have a dollar price attached. And if I choose to buy for one friend and not another, then I hope that I won't be looked upon as a grinch. And if I give something taht has cost me a measly 1 euro because it's soemthign I think she will like, I hope she doesn't feel short-changed. I don't want giving to feel like a competition.
I have had numerous favorite Christmas gifts, and I can assure you that the ones that brought tears to my eyes were simple and cost next-to-nothing. Let me list a few of my favorites over the years.
1) Wrapped inside a box with a note stating: These are my gifts for you this Christmas. I hope that each will bring you happiness and peace throughout the coming year, as having you as my daughter brings to me. Love, Mom. And inside the box were little hearts cut out of red felt, each with a simple word written on them: Love, Peace, Health, Joy, Happiness... and that gift touched me.
2) I adore the book Polar Express. I believe in the magic of Christmas. And I wanted my husband (who did not grow up believing in Santa and his spirit) to understand how deeply the magic touches me. We watched the Polar Express movie as a family, and at the end, tears washed down my cheeks. He didn't seem to understand why. However, on Christmas morning, in a pretty little tapestry box, I opened the lid and found a single red Christmas bell...and I could hear it ring as I held it up to my ear and jingled it. My absolute favorite gift from my husband to date...his understanding.
3) A box of chocolate covered cherries or thin mints...because that is my dad's favorite gift to give and it just isn't Christmas without them under the tree.
4) Whatever I receive from my boys. I give them 2 euro to go search out a gift for me, and the possibilities are endless...but whatever I unwrap, I know it has been chosen specially from them with much heart and thought...and when I see the package wrapped with extra tape and edges not so smooth, I get a lump in my heart and realize that this is the gift of love.
And those are just a few of my favorite things...because it isn't about the money, but about touching someone's heart. So, no competition here; no worries about how much I spend or if it will be enough or if everyone is equal (though I admit to giving my boys an equal NUMBER of gifts to open under the tree)...because when it comes from a gift from me, it will be one that I have specially hand-chosen with love...and it will be something perfect and special just for you.