As people “prepare” for Christmas day all over the world, many complaining they are contending with shopping crowds, family stress, mounting debt and meal preparation in gluttonous overload, here in Tulum, Mexico – it just doesn’t feel like a “normal” Christmas. What a relief!
Many previous years I have “bought” into the “busyness” – spending too much money on misguided gifts, suffering department stores queues whilst being sent insane with carols on repeat, going to Christmas parties and trying to get all my work done for the year, so I could get a few days off.
I can understand on this mouse wheel how people forget the greatest gifts of all.
Even off it, the sentiment of the day has been somewhat lost by many.
Aside from the lights on the main street and in the squares here in Tulum, as well as the intense influx of tourists, the higher prices, rally car driving conditions on crowded roads and the extra glittering paraphernalia in the local budget store, Christmas is a lot more low key here – the emphasis is not really on purchasing gifts.
I am happy to escape the consumerism which transpires in many other regions. I’m sure the locals have gifts in mind but I’m sure most will not be extravagant.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not a humbug or grinch – I don’t question Christmas Day’s impact on uniting people, immediate and extended family, friends and even strangers who might be on their own who are welcomed into homes everywhere. Sharing food, wine, music, stories and kinship is something to be celebrated.
The concept of giving is an honourable one. Yet the spirit should not be isolated to once or twice a year and deemed in terms of material things.
Gifts can come freely, cheaply and certainly more frequently. In fact they can come all year around.
These are the greatest gifts of all – kindness and thoughtfulness.
For millions around the world Christmas has nothing to do with the birth of Jesus – it’s about how many presents you get and how good they are. Some of my Australian friends have been prone to ask since we were children – “So what did you get for Christmas?” in a veiled attempt at competition.
Sentiment and priorities have gone awry. In many respects I feel Christmas has lost meaning and fallen into the laps of commercialism, catering to a throw away society.
They say time is money and it is true.
This is why when you volunteer your time and give to others, it has so much value.
For example, your time teaching someone, sharing your knowledge, or taking on a protégé is something which may live on for decades to come in the form of changing someone’s future for the better.
Generosity can be extended all the time in many simple ways.
Cook a friend a meal, call someone you know who is going through a hard time and check-in, create and give an artistic card, help clean up when you are someone’s guest, make jokes with strangers or even better give compliments, write a letter or a poem to someone, help your neighbour get their car out of snow and ice, give a plant or even just a flower from the wild or a garden, do favours for people proactively without needing to be asked for help, hug people, research something you know will assist a friend, connect people with one another, listen to people earnestly, ring your mum/dad/sister/brother/grandparents – or better yet go say hello.
Being generous doesn’t just happen on Christmas Day.
Your worth is who you are everyday of the year, not what you give on the 25th December.
In fact the best gifts are those which have been invested in, with kindness and thoughtfulness – you can’t put a price on it.
I’ll illustrate with some examples
I was just about to leave Montreal for Medellin, Colombia, to live.
A big experiment.
Apprehensive, nervous, scared and questioning whether I had made the right decision, I was experiencing some heavy emotions accentuated by saying goodbye once again to my close friends in Montreal. Bound for the unknown, setting up life in Colombia’s second biggest city, with no Spanish was a challenge I wasn’t sure I was ready for.
The Australian friend who I had met there a few years before, my Montreal guide from day 1, for my birthday and a parting gift gave me a jar filled with meaningful quotes and proverbs in both French and English which had been cut into tiny threads of paper.
I cried with happy emotion and the reassuring relief of the two messages I first took out.
It didn’t cost much but there was thought, time and effort that went into it.
Similarly before I left Australia one of my best friends gave me a bracelet with the words “Braver than you believe.” I’m sure it wasn’t very expensive but that was irrelevant.
She knew my fears and this gift was her way of reassuring me. It had the likewise reaction of emotion, I was so touched by the sentiment and her thoughtfulness, her love for me.
Or the time my Austrian friend gave me a writing book for French class with a handwritten note inside and a quote from Jack Kerouac. The book is back in Australia but her message was:
I have been really blessed to have kind friends around me.
Greatest gifts of all…
The greatest gifts of all are surely kindness and thoughtfulness – and no amount of credit card debt wrapped in paper under a tree will ever compare to the consistency of these traits.
This year my Christmas Day will be very simple with food, wine, music and a few close friends.
Sure I’ll miss my family.
But gifts…who needs them?
Mmm, well actually I do know a few people…
The type of people whose children don’t hound them for Ipads, bikes, X-boxes or the latest clothes.
The gifts they need are the basics – running water, an education, food and proper shelter.
A simple old battered plastic Christmas tree with lights out the front of their shack and making some extra money from the visitors in town, is what most Mayan neighbours might be grateful for.
I’m not totally cynical about Christmas. I do see the positives. Who wouldn’t want to get people together to eat, drink and celebrate.
My point is, just do it more often.
Love your friends and family, spend time thinking about priceless gifts – those which come with kindness and thoughtfulness.
The greatest gifts of all.
May you all experience these, not just on Christmas Day but throughout the year.
Love Sally xxx