The Gift of Holiday Presence

Have you ever gone into the holiday season determined to stick to your budget, and then don’t? For me, all it takes is one listen to Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas on the radio and I’m overtaken by the gift-giving spirit. My ideas get grander by the second and as I reach the height of creative inspiration, I realize how much time and money I’ll need to pull it all off, and suddenly, all those glittery hopes come crashing down.

I do love the holidays, though. My favorite part is celebrating in community and the creative spark that lights me up. And this year, with the news reporting one tragedy after another, I feel that now is the time to let the holidays help us hold fast to the hope of building stronger communities, promoting togetherness and appreciating the smallest things that bring us joy. 

While it’s my goal to connect with the people I love, I also make an effort to reach out and connect with those in need and spend some time with someone I might not know well. Maybe this is the year that I actually invite a person who might otherwise be alone on Christmas Eve over to dinner. I wonder what kind of difference that might make for someone?

Research says that the average American will spend about $900 on the holidays, but when I look at my possessions, the few material things that I’ve held onto over the years are the handmade gifts—the gifts that loved ones poured their creative energy into, making something just for me. I hold those gifts with the highest regard. Even if I don’t keep in touch with that person as frequently as I would like to, their thoughtful gift keeps them present in my heart. 

Lately on social media, I see a lot of people using the hashtag #timeslowdown as they watch their little ones grow up too fast or wish for more time to spend with friends and family. With the holidays so easily turning into a frenzied search for the perfect gift,  with hours of waiting in line followed by more hours spent wrapping, it’s easy for time to speed by before you’ve even taken a moment to appreciate the season. Did you get to visit the cute craft festivals, do some caroling, go to the holiday stroll? Did you get to move slowly and really take it all in? 

To help us all stay present this holiday season, I’ve come up with a list of alternative gift ideas to help create wonderful holiday memories while also maintaining your sanity...

GIVE TIME. Make plans with a friend or family member to meet at your favorite coffee shop. Put your phone on airplane mode and give them your undivided attention—catch up, people watch, listen to the holiday music. Go on a winter hike or make plans to volunteer together somewhere.

GIVE EXPERIENCES. The Berkshires offers so many fun things for people of all ages to do and see. Community calendars are a great way to find out what’s happening in the area. Use Google Maps to plan a route and research what to see along the way. Pack some favorite snacks to make it even more special. (Got a friend who loves surprises? What fun to be whisked away for a spontaneous day trip!)

GIVE ART. If you appreciate handmade but don’t have the time to make something yourself, find something one-of-a-kind at a craft fair. 

GIVE HOMEMADE. Go rogue and abandon the mall altogether! There are so many things you can make yourself. Lip balms, fermented foods, body scrubs, gift baskets filled with healthy goodies—there so many ways to get creative and make the most out of your budget. Even better, host crafting parties with others who want to make handmade gifts. Have some delicious snacks on hand and enjoy a holiday movie marathon while you craft. 

GIVE GOOD FOOD. Why is the holiday season all about sugary foods? A bottle of exceptionally good olive oil or balsamic vinegar would make a great gift for a foodie who might not splurge on themselves. Think about “foods that include” and gift gluten free and/or vegan treats. Thoughtfully prepared foods emulate a sense of community, acceptance and love! 

GIVE WASTE-FREE. Wrapping provides a wonderful element of surprise to the perfect gift. Instead of going with paper, think about something functional, reusable and sustainable, like a cute fabric bag, beeswax wrappers, BPA free tupperware or mason jars. Reused berry boxes are the perfect container for home-made chocolates carefully wrapped in tissue paper and tied with a scrap piece of ribbon or yarn.

There you have it! Keep it simple, keep it meaningful and keep it all  about your presence!