Two Christmases ago I was working part time in a local gift shop and gallery. The shop was very popular in the community, being filled as it was with many delightful things made by local artists and crafts people. Christmas was their busiest time of year.
I met a lot of stressed out people in the run up to that Christmas. “I just need to get a gift for so-and-so and then I can finally relax!”
I find Christmas increasingly baffling. Mostly, it is an exercise in mass consumerism. Advertisers have us wrapped around their little fingers. They plant seeds of desire for things we never knew we needed. They entice us with limited-time-only deals. And somehow, they’ve created such a strong storyline around Christmas gift-giving, that we feel guilty unless we participate along with everyone else.
And once Christmas is done, they’ll move immediately onto the January sales, then Valentine’s Day, then Easter, and on and on. All to keep us spending. All to keep us busy. All to keep us from slowing down and realising we’ve been had.
Gift giving and receiving is a beautiful thing and, I believe, part of our nature. But not when it arises from a feeling of obligation or a sense of ‘have to’ or ‘should’. Not when it feels like a burden. Not when it feels stressful. Not when it feels like a pressure to conform.
This year, I’ve mostly decided to opt-out of gift giving. Instead, I’ll continue as I prefer – buying the occasional spontaneous gift for someone throughout the year at a time that feels meaningful. At a time I don’t feel rushed or pressured. At a time I can truly say that the gift came from a natural generosity and love in my heart.
As ever, I’m not making a case for right or wrong. I’m just saying that if you’re feeling the pressure, as I have been, you’re allowed to take a step back and consider what would feel good and right for you.
Will you feel guilty if you opt-out of Christmas this year? Probably. But that’s just part of your sensitive nature. But you can handle it. You can sit with all that discomfort and feel your way through it to greater freedom.
And whether it’s the Winter Solstice, Christmas, or something else, isn’t the true essence the same? To connect to the sacred dimension of life and give thanks for all that sustains us?
Well, it’s just all about love really, isn’t it?
Love and courage,
P.S. For all my highly sensitive kindred spirits who are having a hard time with the holiday season, please check out this blog post from the rather fabulous Paula Prober. Paula writes a blog especially for the highly sensitive, emotionally intense and deep-thinking amongst us. She’s a lot funnier than I am and I think her post will bring you both comfort and joy – tra la la la la 🙂