Christmas Giving the Consciously Connected Way

It's nearly that time of year again. Christmas, when we attempt to show we are thinking of others by giving gifts. But how do we do Christmas giving the consciously connected way?

Traditionally, Christmas represents a time of giving, receiving, and sharing time with loved ones. Invariably however, it becomes a time of stress, overthinking, anxiety, and debt. Whether an online shopper or a physical high street shopper, in my experience we fall into three main categories: the prepared, semi-prepared, and last-minute giver. These could be added to and/or expanded upon, but most do fall within this spectrum of gift givers.

Prepared Christmas Giving

You know the type, buying up their presents for the coming festivities in the January sales. The completely prepared have endless room in their homes to store all the bargains they have obtained. They are ready to drag them out and wrap them as soon as the Halloween decorations come down. The prepared giver is attempting to alleviate their stress during the run up to the festive season. This is so they can concentrate on other stresses such as food preparation, house decoration, and party planning.

These people are the ones some of us love to hate when we realise the holiday period has crept up on us when we weren’t looking. To casually, but worryingly, ask how much they have left to do, only to be greeted with “oh, I’m all done” can be incredibly disheartening. This throw-away comment often sends the rest of us reeling into the insecure knowledge that we weren’t as prepared as we’d thought.

Semi-prepared Christmas Giving

This is the category most fall into. The people who observe the passing of Halloween, knowing that the next celebration is approaching. They are fully aware of the mayhem and madness that is about to descend over the coming months. The semi-prepared begin considering their list of gift receivers and delve into ideas of the perfect present for each and every name.

Money is allocated to the various tiers of connection. A gift card for not so close friends, ranging up to a whole plethora of extravagance for those closest to them. A degree of planning is involved, with each weekends shopping fixed to obtaining the gifts they're determined to find. More difficult names on the list may be pushed to the later weeks, but largely the semi-prepared giver has all bases covered, with a few weeks to spare for wrapping and preparations for the big day.

Last-minute Christmas Giving

We all recognise this type. Those leaving it till the last week, day, hours of Christmas Eve before braving the shops. Traditionally this type of giver was thought to be predominantly male, however this is a misnomer. As lives become busier for both males and females, this category of gift giver now applies to both sexes. It’s not that they forgot, after all, the festive season advertising is thrust forward from the moment Halloween passes. It’s just they are convinced the right gift will land in their hands with ease.

Some people do function as a last-minute giver, managing to remain stress-free as they pick up the last remnants of Christmas regalia left on the store’s shelves. Many however, enter into a panic-buy frenzy as they realise time is running out, picking up whatever they can in the hopes that “it’s the thought that counts.”



Just when you thought it was done...

Picture the scene. You attend a Christmas day gathering and a family member you hadn’t expected to see turns up with a beautiful gift for you. What are your first thoughts and feelings? I can almost guarantee they are not ones of thanks and gratitude. When this situation occurs the first thought is, “shit, I don’t have anything for them”, alongside guilt from not having thought to put them on your gift list.

Or another scenario. You give a gift that cost you very little, and receive one back from the other person that has a hefty price tag. You may have spent all you had on the gift you gave, and the other person has unlimited funds to give extravagantly. The inevitable fall out of this situation spreads into your future gift giving. It sees you attempting to match the cost to the other person, regardless of your meagre funds.

Time for a change

It’s time to break out of these categories. To step into a whole new category of gift giver. A category that takes away the stress, overthinking, anxiety, and debt. Our spending and buying during the festive season have become distorted over the years in a tug-of-war reciprocity that begins to dictate our actions.

As a culture we have become obsessed with the reciprocity of the festive season. Anthropologically, gift giving is presenting a part of oneself to another. French anthropologist Marcel Mauss identified three obligations associated with gift exchange. Giving, as the first step in building social relationship; receiving, signifying acceptance of social relationship; and reciprocating, demonstrating the recipient’s integrity within the social relationship.

Looking at these obligations it’s easy to see how we have fallen into the buying trap. However, if we take money out of the equation, we can begin to see a completely different aspect of giving, the consciously connected Christmas giver.

The Consciously Connected Christmas Giver

This type of giver understands their own value and the value of others. Not buying into the hype surrounding the Christmas season, they are prepared to give of themselves, not of their purse. Consciously connected givers often do place monetary value upon their gift by donating to charity in the name of the receiver.

There are those who donate their precious time to help others less fortunate than themselves by volunteering at homeless shelters and other worthy causes. And there are those who give the gift of love and companionship, seeing this as a way to give the greatest gift of all, themselves.

How often do we sit down with those we love and simply give them the gift of our words? Words of encouragement, words of truth at the beauty we see in those we choose to spend time with.

I recently attended an author conference in Columbus, Ohio. Hundreds of souls came from all around the globe to celebrate success and spread encouragement for each authors journey. Many of us gathered at tables with people we had never met before, and forged bonds of friendship over a three-day period.

As the time came to a close, we participated in an exercise with everybody taking one minute to express their hearts to each of the other table members. This exercise perfectly encapsulated Mauss’ observations of gift exchange. We gave words from the heart; they were received into the recipients’ heart; and they, in turn, gave words from their hearts in mutual exchange. Building social relationship in such a powerful way brought a sense of loving community no physical gift could ever provide.

Another way

So, I challenge you. When you see the gift you gave someone a few years before, residing on a dusty shelf untouched and unappreciated, what could you give to that person that will remain in their heart this year? A poem, written just for them expressing your love and adoration? A letter, acknowledging all they have meant to you over the past year, expressing gratitude for having them in your life? Or simply the gift of your words, telling them the amazing impact they have had on your life, and how you will continue to value them in the year to come?

Make a change this year. Foster a culture which will filter through your friends, your family, young, and old. Become a consciously connected Christmas giver. Give from your heart, not from your purse, and encourage others to do the same. Leave the commercialisation of gift giving behind, and enter into the gift of social relationship. Build strength and love within your community by forging powerful bonds as a consciously connected Christmas giver.

It is the greatest gift anyone can give or receive.

3 thoughts on “Christmas Giving the Consciously Connected Way

  1. Sarah, these words are so inspirational but I fear such sentiment would not be appreciated by many!
    I dread the forthcoming ‘celebrations’ because of all the stresses you mention and would love to become one of the Consciously Connected givers, but I worry people would just see me as the “tight arsed misery” they think I am because of my dislike of all the commercialism and having to ‘waste’ money on gifts because it’s ‘expected’.

    • I understand completely how you feel Susan. It’s difficult to break the monetary chains of the season. However You WOULD be giving, just not in the way most people expect. To take time to sit with each of your receivers and tell them your gift this year is to inform them of how much they mean to you would really make them sit up and think about their own gift giving. Possibly ease yourself into it. Give them a small token gift as you explain the real gift you wish to give is from your heart and not your pocket. You never know, you may start a beautiful trend that will carry through the years and touch so many people xxx

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