It’s a crazy time of year, isn’t it? From night-times banked up with Christmas gatherings to lunch-times packed with Christmas shopping (not to mention meeting KPIs and clearing the desk), the pressure to be everywhere and buy everything in time is on!
At this time of year, we love hearing the Christmas carols in the shopping malls, seeing the Christmas decorations on the houses, and watching the Christmas buskers in the streets. We have to admit though, what we love the most about this season is that since we don’t personally celebrate the holiday, we can enjoy it all without the stress of gift giving. And although a tiny part of us has always wanted a Christmas tree, a big part has always been relieved that we haven’t had to fill it’s base with gifts.
Out of curiosity, we decided to do a little research into the origins of gift giving at Christmas. We discovered that it is believed that this custom dates back to the 4th Century when early Christians adopted a Pagan tradition of gift giving during a weeklong festival at this time in honour of the God of Agriculture. Although the actual date of Jesus birth is not stipulated in the Bible, historians suggest that the 25th December was chosen to coincide with this beloved pagan festival and ensure the popular success of Christianity. Since the Three Wise Men brought gifts to Jesus soon after he was born, the custom fit well and the celebrations began.
Or did they? Funnily enough, there was quite a bit of backlash at first (due to it’s pagan origins) and Christmas celebrations only actually became legalised in certain parts of the US in the 1680s! Today we can safely admit that those early Christians surely succeeded in making this custom widespread. By 1867 already, the holiday present industry was healthy enough for Macy’s in New York City to keep its doors open until midnight on Christmas Eve for the first time. Yet by 1904, one writer in Harper’s Bazaar was already lamenting the rampant commercialism of the day. “Twenty-five years ago, Christmas was not the burden that it is now,” wrote Margaret Deland. “There was less haggling and weighing, less quid pro quo, less fatigue of body, less wearing of soul; and, most of all, there was less loading up with trash.” We can’t imagine what on earth Margaret would think today if she saw what Christmas has turned into…
Although we hardly have a leg to stand on, we’d like to offer a few mindful suggestions for those of you who are in the midst of the stress of this season:
- Whilst you rack your brain for something unique and memorable for each person on your long list, take a moment to reflect on why you might be buying them a gift in the first place and if it’s even necessary. Do they REALLY need more stuff?
- Consider whether there are options other than a store bought item that you can devote your gift buying time and your hard earned money to. Spending quality time, writing meaningful words, making homemade treats, and donating to charity are just a few ideas. Remember this experiment that was done a few years ago on what children truly prefer for Christmas?
- Keep in mind that your presence is your greatest present. We live in an attention economy, where the most valuable commodity that we own is our attention. So the greatest gift that we can give someone is in fact our full attention (smart phones and work worries aside).
- Finally, stop doing and start being as much as you can during this holiday season. Sing along to those carols, admire those decorations, and commend those buskers.
Wishing a Centred Christmas to all those who celebrate it and a Centred Holidays to those who don’t 🙂