A Meaningful Christmas

mistletoe

It’s that time of the year again. The time for mince pies and mulled wine, Christmas trees and mistletoes and all things nice. Amidst all the gaiety and twinkly lights, the season also brings forth a sense of dread for some; brought on by the seasonal expectations of having a ‘merry christmas’ and the consumption frenzy which has increasingly defined and eclipsed the spiritual origins of the holiday.

I’m all for the festive good cheer, the seasonal feelings of warmth and generosity, and the practice of gift-giving . What has become increasingly uncomfortable for me is the weight of expectations of what makes ‘a happy Christmas’- mostly defined by advertisers and people around us. A widespread perception of what makes a ‘good’ Christmas  would probably include the gathering of family and friends over a delicious spread of food and drinks, lots of wonderful presents, a christmas tree drooping with decorations and quality time with loved ones.

These are all good stuff. But are they the right stuff for you? How many of us have slaved over the turkey on Christmas Day, not because we like turkey, but because it’s the must-have food for the big day? How many of us have racked up credit card debt just so that we can ‘afford’ to buy presents we can’t afford  to ‘show’ others that we love them or that we are ‘generous’. How many of us have been made to feel sad and inadequate because for various reasons, we will be spending Christmas on our own?

A minimalist Christmas is not about being a Scrooge: not spending money and being tight with our generosity. It’s about questioning what our priorities are for the festive season and making it more meaningful for us. It’s not about being anti-consumption, but it’s about being more mindful of what we consume and what we give. It’s all about focusing on what is essential and important; on what gives us joy, value and meaning,. It’s certainly not about being tight-fisted and deprived. It’s about doing what’s right for you, as defined by you.

So how can we make the festive season more meaningful and less stressful?

  • Be honest with yourself. Ask what makes a happy and meaningful  Christmas for you. Is it more quality time with your loved ones? A scrumptious Christmas dinner? A lovely walk in nature? Contributing your time at the homeless shelter? Remember it’s about what works for you and not what’s expected of you.
  • Be more conscious of gift-giving. Focus on quality, not quantity- and make it more personal and meaningful. Focus on what the other person really needs and wants , rather than what you think they should have or what is acceptable and worthy as a gift.
  • Be creative with gifting. I know many of us are used to giving tangible items (and items of a certain monetary value) in order to make it seem like a ‘proper’ gift. There are other ways to make the gift  more meaningful and useful. Explore the options of giving experiences or your time. Isn’t it generally more interesting to share stories and memories than show stuff? People tend to think that time is infinite and money is finite- when it’s actually the other way round. When you invest your time and effort (for e.g. spending time with each other, making your own gifts, gifting time vouchers), that time is used and gone forever. When you invest money in a gift, you can always earn back the money. So personally, I think that gifting your time is even more precious than gifting something that can be bought in a shop.
  • Keep it simple. If your aim is to spend more quality time with your loved ones and doing stuff together, it defeats the purpose if you were to slave away in the kitchen for most of the day and then end up too tired to eat and enjoy your time together. Focus on spending more time together and explore ways to make the Christmas dinner simpler (for e.g. buying a ready-made Chritmas meal, ditching the tedious turkey and going for something simpler, getting everyone to contribute something towards the the meal). Focus on what’s important for you and do what works for you.

For the first time ever, I realised that I don’t desire any gifts for Christmas because I have everything I need and want for now. That to me is a gift in itself; it means I’m blessed with more than enough.

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