Front Street

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

By Gigi

Many people feel stressed out about buying and giving gifts around the holidays; even before the economy tanked, lots of people thought the holidays were too materialistic and more about the gifts than the feelings behind them. Before my family became Jehovah Witnesses, our holidays were marked with gifts and food. I enjoyed it even more as I got older because I realized that our holiday traditions brought the family together and allowed us to share and express a sense of gratitude, joy, abundance…and yes, love.

As a kid, I loved getting toys, clothes, etc. But the gifts were more humble; even the people who could afford extravagant presents probably didn’t do as much buying and spending as we do today. Our culture has grown more commercial, and gift giving has become a booming industry. Sometimes the original meaning behind the tradition gets lost, and the gift giving takes on a life of its own. The pressure of spending money on the right present also becomes the focal point of receiving as well. It’s all too easy to have high expectations of what’s in that beautifully wrapped box—and that can set anyone up for disappointment. When the materialistic aspects of the holiday overshadow its meaning that can leave people feeling empty and wishing for something more, holiday blues and feeling sad and empty ensues.

Holiday advertisements can also foster unrealistic expectations. We’re pressured to buy the perfect gift, get the perfect outfit, have the perfect party and get along perfectly with our perfect families and friends; it’s hard for reality to measure up. Of course there are some of us that simply love the holidays and appreciate the traditional aspects of it, like getting together and celebrating with friends and family. And some of us love shopping and are just fine with the entire gift giving and receiving. But if you’re feeling a little hollow about the holidays, you can focus on traditions and service─try putting real meaning into your giving, such as: volunteering at a hospital, homeless shelter, feeding the poor at a soup kitchen, etc. Happy Holidays.