258: Christmas is not the season of giving

258: Christmas is not the season of giving

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We often hear that Christmas is the season of giving. And while I think that’s a nice “feeling”, I don’t completely subscribe to it.

Let me explain. It’s not that I don’t like Christmas. I’m not a Grinch. And we do take part in a lot of gift giving adventures at Christmastime. But I think there’s a better description for the Christmas season that explains the glitch so many of us feel when the season is upon us. Because even though we talk about giving and the “spirit” of Christmas, the season (whether you celebrate it in a religious or secular way) ends up being more about anxiety, overwhelm, arguments, competition, and judgement.

Oh, we say it’s about giving. And yet we’re caught up in arguments about how early one should decorate for Christmas, or how many presents are too many presents for the grandparents to buy the kids. We get stressed about all the events we’re invited to and wonder how to divide our time between all the celebrations so as not to upset anyone. If we’ve reached a point in our life where we’ve decided to just keep to ourselves, we look down our noses at people who still immerse themselves in the hustle and bustle.

We say Christmas is about giving, but we’re caught up in what’s being served at the holiday meal and whether it fits with our diet. Or that gifts should only be experiences because everyone has too much stuff. Or that Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays will never be equal as a salutation of well wishes. That too many of our gifts came from Amazon, not the local mom and pop shop. Or that all our gifts came from the local mom and pop shop and therefore our Christmas is more awesomer than yours.

We say Christmas is about giving, but we’re stressed about how to merge family traditions and how we’re supposed to make all the cookies and when is the wrapping going to get done and is the angel costume done for the Christmas pageant and why is Melissa’s party starting at 5 now? I thought we didn’t have to be there until 7?

Let’s hear it for the season of giving!

Why is it like this?

Why does the season often become about stress and annoyance and frustration and overwhelm?

It’s simple, really.

It’s because we are human beings dealing with other human beings. And because we’re trying to force something to happen that works a lot better if it comes about naturally. A feeling or vibe or emotion isn’t real if it has to arrive on demand.

The season is stressful because human beings have a super power to make things stressful. It like we’ve put some kind of deadline on feelings of generosity and magic and thankfulness, like they’re somehow more special or mean something bigger if it’s December 25th, and because of that, we kick everything in to high gear. We need Christmastime to be something for us, to represent something for ourselves or our families.

Christmastime is stressful because of expectations, whether ours or someone else’s, whether real or imagined. And expectations come from people.

Maybe we need to stop thinking of Christmas as the season of giving and instead think of it as the season of togetherness. Christmas is the season of people being with other people. And that is what explains all the awesome and all the stress of the season.

When we say Christmas is the season of giving, there’s a constant push of a million other things at Christmas that don’t seem to line up with “giving”. But as a season of togetherness, it explains the many stressors that come up, sprinkled in and amongst all the fabulous parts.

Maybe reframing the season will help you just a little as you look at all of the awesome and chaos. I know it’s helped me.

A reminder about togetherness

It’s the most wonderful time of year, as the song says, but it’s also a most stressful time of year. There are many circumstances we don’t have any control over, as is always the case when people get involved.

Christmas is the season of togetherness. This is your gentle reminder that it’s up to you to consider the situation. It’s up to you to keep perspective. You can use your mouth to offer harsh words or you can turn the edges up and offer a smile. It’s up to you to choose the best response.

— Amy Dingmann, 12-4-23


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