10 Dec 12 Challenges of Christmas Part 1: Challenges 1-6
Challenge #1: How to have an honest holiday celebration
A lot of people get really stressed about who they ‘have to’ spend the holidays with. They dutifully go along with what they ‘should’ do, what expectations to meet. They get together with people they don’t like, gritting their teeth, unable to enjoy the festival of peace.
Here is my challenge: Embrace the Christmas spirit and make a decision to look past the irritating behaviour of people for the time you are together. See it as an opportunity to practice compassion and bring joy to the world. Or, if that is too hard, how about being honest?
Decide who you want to celebrate with and create another opportunity to meet up with people who are merely an obligation. Do you really have to spend the holidays with them? Rather than being grumpy and resentful, make a choice. Say yay or nay and have an honest Christmas.
Challenge #2: How to have a solvent holiday celebration
Statistically, over half the presents you give this year will not be liked or wanted. You may still be paying off the credit card when they are tossed out, given away or sold. At the same time, the joy over a welcomed present is washed away in the flood of many other gifts.
Here is my challenge: What would happen if you gave less this year? What if you told your kids that not every toy on their wish list will be delivered? If you have older kids or no kids, you could even have a Secret Santa or Kris Kringle gift exchange with a set maximum amount for each present. And then instead of spending hours unwrapping gifts that are quickly put aside so another one can be opened, you could connect with those around you and be a present to each other. And you could be certain that when you open your next credit card statement all is well in the world.
Challenge #3: How to have a thoughtful holiday celebration
There are people who don’t like presents, no matter how much thought you have put into them. Instead they may prefer to spend time with you. According to Gary Chapman, there are actually five ways in which we all want to be loved and appreciated.
Here is my challenge: What would happen if you found the love language the person you are planning to buy a gift for really understands? Maybe you could give them something to do together later in the year, like tickets for a concert or a shared adventure? How about a voucher for time to help with whatever they need support with? If you can’t be there yourself, maybe you could give them a voucher for a professional service? Or what about a booklet with hug coupons? Maybe write them a letter that expresses how much you appreciate them?
A single gift that says ‘I get you’ means so more than a mountain of presents that don’t matter. When what you give resonates with their love language, they’ll know it’s from your heart.
Challenge #4: How to have an (un)-wrapped holiday celebration
We are more environmentally aware these days. Recycling is in. So it’s a pity that a lot of wrapping paper used during the holidays is not recyclable. Along with ribbons and bows it goes straight into general waste, taking a very long time to decompose. Even longer when plastic is involved. It’s not only the garbage problem packaging creates, it’s expensive. We literally spend billions of dollars on gift wrap that is ripped off and tossed aside in seconds with no or very little thought for what happens with it afterwards.
So here is my challenge: Find some gift wrap that can definitely be recycled. Or use packaging that can be used again, like gift bags. You could also embrace the Japanese tradition of Furoshiki (bit.ly/usingfuroshiki), of using fabric to wrap gifts that gets used over and over again. The bonus? Untying the knots will provide you with the opportunity to appreciate the time it took to create the wrapping, and the effort behind the gift giving.
Challenge #5: How to have a connecting holiday celebration
How many cards do you receive that contain nothing more than the preprinted ‘Happy Holidays’ message and the sender’s signature? Your warm and fuzzies may spring more from knowing that you made someone’s Christmas list rather than the message itself.
Here is my challenge: Instead of sending dozens of empty season’s greetings, how about only writing cards with meaningful short messages to those people who have played a role in your life this year? You could also save some trees by sending e-cards. Just make sure that blinking GIFs and perky music don’t drown out your message.
Alternatively, if writing individualised messages adds more stress to the busyness of the silly season, you could make it a ‘Happy New Year’ mail instead. Maybe take the more quiet time between the holidays and the New Year to create a letter or an email that summarises the last twelve months. Whatever format or content you choose, I invite you to send your season’s greetings not from a place of ticking them off the to-do list but from a desire to meaningfully connect.
Challenge #6: How to have an incomparable holiday celebration
There are people who pull out all the stops when it comes to celebrating the holidays. Each year, they deck out their house and garden with newly themed decorations, prepare complex dishes and special treats, spend days on end looking for the perfect gifts and then hours creatively wrapping them, dressed in special clothes that reflect the holiday spirit. A lot of effort goes into creating the perfect setting. Settings potentially suitable for social media posts that impress friends, family, and neighbours.
So here is my challenge: How about embracing the original holiday spirit, be it Christian, Jewish, or Kwanzaa. No matter what the belief system, the original focus of the season is on community and connection. Whether you follow a religion or not, have your own enjoyable customs that reflect this spirit. Celebrate from the inside out. Instead of putting lots of effort into something that is picture perfect, yet stressful, enjoy simplicity and fun. Make merry these holidays however you want to, not the way you think you have to. Reduce stress, increase appreciation.