I’ve been thinking a lot about gift giving this year. It is one of those seasonal rituals that has caused consternation for me (and many people I’ve talked to) over the years. It begins in childhood, here in America, when families acknowledge holidays (birthdays, Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day…). It has been presented as a way to celebrate loved ones in the family.
Even as a child this was conflicted for me as we were atheist Jews living in the Bible Belt in Kansas. Being surrounded by Christians, but not being part of the Jewish community, it was uncomfortable for us to be different so we celebrated Christmas until I was 8 years old. This allowed us to go back to school after the winter break and brag about what we had gotten for Christmas. Long story short, eventually that gift giving ritual was changed because as the youngest, I was “old enough to understand”.
As an adult, I chose to celebrate Christmas as it had more pleasant memories and meaning for me personally. Once I had a child, though, I became more connected to being Jewish and added Hannukah so my son could experience his Jewish roots. You see how confusing this becomes?
When I had a young child and was around the joyfulness of children in general there was a purpose in the playfulness of giving and receiving gifts. This is also part of the joy of celebrating with children, as they don’t have money to spend, their gifts are hugs, paper hearts and inedible treats. Throughout my life I have always preferred giving homemade gifts, even though I didn’t always do it effectively. Ha! Ha!
As the years went by, the conflicts and challenges around gifts that arose during holiday times, even with the various children, became more of a burden than a joy. Gradually, the celebrations became shortened, limited to the parts that we truly enjoyed – primarily, in my family, food based.
My personal rhythms became more and more associated with the seasons and their ebb and flow in accordance with nature. Many people take this approach and connect it to celebrating the solstices, but that felt unnatural to me. So, for me, it became a more personal experience and one which I don’t feel a need to celebrate in groups.
Over the years, I came to feel the holidays were so overlaid with false celebrations based on religious beliefs and rampant commercialism (neither of which are my style) that any meaning that had been present for me had disapated. Many people shifted to requesting a gift being sent to a favorite charity, but that never sat right with me. If I want to give you a gift, I want to give it to you!
Both the men in my family, Ofer and Yo’el, prefer giving spontaneously. This is more rewarding for all of us. It took me many years to learn this and I am still not very good at it. The need for a certain date on the calendar, that externally defined purpose is very hard for me to overcome. I will continue to work on that.
Time, I think, is the most precious gift we can give. That means: chatting on the phone, going for tea, fixing a meal together, taking a walk, making and enjoying a meal, planting in the garden, driving somewhere for an afternoon together, cleaning the house…. There are so many ways to say “I love you!” by simply spending time together.
I am happy to give the gifts of my hands – either through the goodies I make or the gift of Reiki – my gifts are available to you. Just ask! Don’t wait for a holiday as an excuse. My gifts are here for you whenever you want them.