I used to LOVE Christmas. It was my favorite holiday growing up. My birthday comes a few weeks before the 25th, so I always felt that the entire month was mine to celebrate.
The music, the tree, the lights, the cookies, the tastes, the smells…I embraced it all.
Then I grew up and it somehow lost its luster, which made me really sad.
I couldn’t put my finger on what happened to make the magic die, until I made my millionth trip to the post office to stand in line with lots of other disgruntled citizens.
The presents and gifts had gotten to me.
Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE giving. I love thinking of the perfect gift for someone special and brainstorming the exact way to wrap and give the present.
There’s nothing better than surprising someone you care about with just the right thing to make their eyes light up and bring a smile to their face.
On the flip side, I realized there was nothing worse than last minute shopping for gifts just for the sake of HAVING to do it.
I found myself picking out any old thing and wrapping it just to get it out the door on time and say that I did it.
What a way to ruin the Christmas spirit!
Now that we have a young daughter, the magic has definitely come back this holiday season. She is old enough to have fun decorating the tree with us and look at awe (and a little trepidation) at the Santa in her school holiday party.
With this new phase in our lives comes a different perspective on giving and gifts, as well.
While our families now have fun buying for the kids, we have really started to limit what we purchase for each other.
Instead of buying and wrapping just for the sake of doing it, we chose one or two very thoughtful gifts that we know will mean something to the other person, or that we know they REALLY want.
It takes the stress away and puts the joy back into giving for me!
Maybe you are like me and want to give this holiday season, but feel like there has got to be something more than busy stores and annoyed drivers. Maybe you don’t have the funds, the time or the inclination to buy more and more things.
Or maybe you are simply stumped on what to buy for those around you.
I have some ideas that might help!
These are all gifts I have given in the past few years while I’ve attempted to decrease the stress of presents and increase the joy of giving.
They are all FREE and can be wrapped the night before, or simply sent in an email to those far away.
I hope you find some ideas to tweak your creative juices and remind you of the joy in giving.
Massage – given by YOU!
We all LOVE getting massages, but it’s hard to find time and money to schedule them. Your spouse or loved one would love a massage from you! Not only because it feels good, but because it is a way for you to show your love through your time and affection.
When I give this as a gift, I just write “one hour massage” on a piece of paper and wrap it. I let my husband decide when he wants to “schedule” it (usually during baby nap time), and I lay out a sheet on the bed, light candles and play soft music. I make it as much a spa experience as I can so he can relax and rest.
You don’t need to be an expert here! Just the thought and effort is worth it!
An alternative to this is setting up any spa service in your house! Give a pedicure or manicure to your mom or sister. Husbands – set up a hot bubble bath with candles and a glass of wine for your wife. Don’t worry about making it perfect, just make the receiver feel special and pampered.
Chores for a day or week
When our daughter was a newborn, my husband and I made some silly bet. I don’t remember at all what it was (probably trying to recall the year a song came out), but I remember the loser agreed to change all the diapers for one full day.
I think I lost.
What a great gift to give to someone! Changing diapers, taking the trash out, making the afternoon coffee, doing the dishes, doing toddler bath time, shopping for groceries, vacuuming, paying the bills, doing carpool or watering the plants. Think of something your friend/partner/spouse/co-worker does every day, and tell them you will do it for a week for them (or a day if it’s diapers – a week is crazy talk).
Hint – many people have a hard time accepting these gifts! You will need to make them accept. Don’t wait for them to cash in. Take the initiative and do the chores for them if you give this as a gift!
Many of my friends with kids will do trade-off’s on the weekend with their spouse. My friend Gina trades afternoons with her husband so each one gets a nap, and another friend trades off who gets to sleep in on a Sunday instead of get up early with the kids.
If you are giving it as a gift, offer to take the kids for an afternoon, or mornings for a week, or two full nights of feedings so your partner can get some much needed sleep.
A Gratitude Letter (or email)
I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like being told they are appreciated. In our days of quick texts and rushing out the door, It’s so easy to forget to really tell people how we feel.
One year on Christmas Eve I personally emailed every person in my family and my husband’s family telling them what I appreciated about them and how I looked up to them. It gave me a chance to focus on each individual person and their strengths, which we don’t always do during our busy days or family gatherings.
(Have you ever told your brother-in-law something you admire about him? Now’s the time!)
If you want to focus on one specific person, take the time to write a heart-felt letter or email. Think back to the first time you met this person, the moment you fell in love or a special time that person really encouraged you, and express how that made you feel and how it helped you.
I’m not sure there is a better gift out there than this.
A Playlist (formerly known as “The Mix Tape”)
Mixed tapes were my FAVORITE gift to get back in the day! I loved playing the songs, noticing the placement of each and trying to find the hidden meaning in the lyrics.
While we may not have cassette decks anymore, you can still make a great playlist for someone! (And it takes 10 minutes compared to half the day, with no rewinding of tapes needed).
When making a playlist for someone, try to chose songs that mean something in your relationship or represent a certain time in your lives. You can do it for a boyfriend/girlfriend, for a close friend, someone graduating from college or even your five year old! (My daughter insists on “her music” every time we get in the car. This includes I’m a Little Teapot ON REPEAT. Luckily, she also loves Coldplay and Mumford and Suns, so making a playlist of her favorites that I also enjoy would be a great idea!)
So as you can see, you have no excuse not to give those around you amazing gifts! While these gifts don’t cost any money, they do take some thought, effort and time, which really are the most important things you can give to those you love.
Whatever your holiday plans, I hope you are surrounded by joy, laughter, light and love! Oh, and a really good playlist.