It has taken me a while to find what to write about during this time of year. I tried to reflect on the Holidays, and realized that I have done that twice before and my thoughts and observations have not changed. I feel the same way now as I have for years. I dislike the pressure, expectations, commercialism and overall shallow approach that is so common during this time. I also do not like being told what to do, when and how to do it. 

This morning I was reliving a memory from two nights ago and my topic revealed itself. We had a work Christmas party and, branching out, I attended. There was food, games, prizes and pleasant conversation. It was fun. I chose to participate in the Secret Santa portion. I detest a White Elephant. You know, that game where people bring gag sort of gifts and you can steal better gifts from others? I find that highly offensive and insulting. I also have watched the horror on the faces of folks who did not understand the game, brought a real gift, and left with some bullshit kitchen utensil someone got at a garage sale. Certainly not my cup of tea. 

My memory was of the face of the gal I had for my Secret Santa and of the feelings about my gift. While I did not really know my Secret Santa person, I worked with her husband last year and I met her a couple times. I knew enough to be thoughtful in my choice. Because her gift was hand crafted in Mexico, I had the vendor embroider my Secret Santa’s name on it. Personalize and make it special. After we all opened our gifts and our Santa was revealed, I saw her holding up the gift, smiling, and looking over to me. She was showing it to a group of friends. I felt proud to have given something that was well received and happy that she thought enough of it to show it off. It seemed that I did alright. 

My present was a gift card. It was a decent amount of money to a place that I always shop. In fact, I had items sitting in my shopping card waiting for me to make up my mind. I was appreciative and thanked my Santa, sharing that it will get used before the week is out. It came in a nice card that is now hanging on my wall. In fact, the money was spent the next day. 

I have a beloved friend who loves to give gifts. She loves to give you things that she loves. She will preface the acts of giving the gift with, “This is so cute! I just love it!” She is so excited to share her love of this thing that she got you one, too. What I love is the look on her face, her overall excitement and glee as she watches you open the gift. Generally, it is not anything I wanted or needed. But, always I love her for it. I keep it for a few weeks or years, and then pass it on so that others can enjoy that thing that sat around my house and that I am sure she has long forgotten. At least I hope so.  

There are gifts and there are presents. We use the word “gift” to talk about people, as in what a “gift” that child is, or about our personal growth, as in “that challenge was a gift as I learned so much”. Each day can be a “gift”, fraught with meaning and delight. We do not refer to our days as presents. Presents are things of use, common things, something like underwear or bakeware or tickets to the movies. Presents seem to be more superficial than gifts, perhaps less personal, but perhaps more useful and practical. I mean, we can have the gift of serenity, but a present of peace? No, we do not really say that. We give the gift of peace. 

Giving something, no matter what you call it, has meaning to me. I have downsized my life so that nearly everything I have is on purpose and with intent. It is true that while I have put down roots here in Texas I have accumulated a few more things, like candles and a diffuser. Superfluous things that are not needed, but wanted and that make me happy. These things will be tucked away in my storage unit should the need arise. I have spent time and money buying gifts from across the border in Mexico and I have had them personalized with the names of the receivers. While the gift itself is nice and all, that small touch, to ME, represents my intention, my caring and my love. I want the receiver to know they matter, I put thought into it, and chose carefully and with purpose. Sure, I hope they like it and use it. But, more importantly, I hope they know that this small gesture means they matter to me. 

During this time it is easy to get caught up in the emotions of the season, the pressure to buy, and the off-kilter ethos that “more is better”. What child does not covet the image of a tree jam packed with presents underneath? What parent does not feel guilty if they provided less than the family next door? Too many of us go into needless debt and indulge in the materialistic capitalism that bombards our lives always, but especially this time of year. 

Heck, some of us retaliate with donations to charitable organizations, volunteering our time, or just plain old refusing to participate in giving anything to anyone. In fact, my own parents announced that they will not be sending Christmas checks this year. My heart warmed as I reflected on the meaning of the gesture. While the amount was little more than one would spend on a night out, it was a gesture of love. It was the thought all these years, not the money. The card will be enough. The phone call or FaceTime or Zoom chat will be all I need. 

Heading into the Holidays… well, I guess we are fully in them now… I recognize that my remote location keeps most of this bullshit at bay. Nobody plays Christmas music in their buildings here in the park. Nobody has an extensive outdoor display, as we are a dark sky area but the winds down here are so intense that shit would blow for hundreds of miles or be torn to shreds in minutes. Many of us will work our usual schedules, quite oblivious to any Holiday or celebration. As a community of people far from our families and friends, we will socialize and celebrate with each other. We will take time to be together, embrace where we are and who we are with. We will experience some of our shared traditions and be welcomed into new ones. 

We will gather for food and laughter, drinks and desserts. We will have hugs and play games. We will have the gift of each other. Some of us will bake cookies and make candies, some will just eat them. I mean, that is the point, right? Reflect, remember, be reminded and be grateful. Give a gift, be a gift, embrace the gifts. Gifts, not presents. I mean, who just wants underwear, anyway?

Please do not save your gift giving for one time during the year. Please do not wait! Go ahead and give any gift for any reason to anyone you choose anytime you feel like it. Please do not waste your time and money on crap nobody needs or wants. Please share all you can with anyone who is in need. May you surround yourself with people and places that you love and that love you back. 

May the giving and loving spirit of the Holidays be with you each and every day. 

Cheers now and always!!

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