I have a humongous Christmas tree in my house this year. It makes me giggle when I look at it every morning, but it also made me wonder if there were other motivations to my getting a big Christmas tree. As a nation, we overdo it every holiday. Why?
1. We’re not supposed to give freely during the year.
Giving freely is looked at suspiciously, or with pity. So many movies in New York begin with the main character helping others in the street, wide-eyed and heart open, while muggers look on with glee. The world has been molded to take advantage of givers. If you put it out there for free, why? That’s like the fisherman who gives the fish free bait. It comes with a catch. (ha!)
If you give on a constant basis, people think you’re an easy mark. If you have a business and give without restraint, people think that you don’t have any business sense. But during the holidays, tidings of cheer and good will negate every one of those rules.
If we’re honest with ourselves, giving is an inherent part of our being. It’s unnatural to hoard and be stingy. But when you’re an adult, open displays of love and appreciation are seen as suspect.
When a child runs up and hugs you, there’s an “aww” moment. When an adult runs up and hugs you, we signal for security.
During the holidays, we speak kindly to strangers, we enjoy ourselves and spend more time with the people we love. We can give and overwhelm them with the love we’ve felt for them all year, and no one will think we’re weirdos.
Giving is a part of us we’ve learned to hide and protect. During the holidays, we can give in to the love we’ve hidden all year long. This is why we overdo it for the holidays.
2. Traditionally, we’re defined by what we do and have, instead who we are.
50 weeks out of the year, most people spend their days in a job defined by a company. That company gives you a salary, benefits and even a community of others working to make sure that everyone is successful (so that you can continue to get paid).
If you work at your own business, your schedule may be 365 days a year. All that time away from your family better be worth it. So we buy a nice house, drive a decent car, and well, during the holidays… we’ve got to make up for it somehow. We even get competitive about it, giving bigger and more things to show that we can keep up with the latest trends and we love our family the most.
The funny thing is, children like the technology and the pretty dolls, but they love your funny stories and affection even more. They settle for what you give them because, well if it’s not the real thing, at least it’s something.
Think about it. We don’t describe our favorite uncle as the dude who always brought the great gifts during Christmas. He’s the one who always listened to you, and told you the stories that ignited your imagination. The people who make the greatest impact on you are the people who shared who they are.
There are pictures of me in my childhood by a Christmas tree. I’m surrounded by paper and boxes, and always, I’m in a fluffy dress. I don’t remember ANY of the presents. Not one. What I do remember is feeling completely surrounded by joy and love. My family was together, music was playing and everyone was telling a story. I couldn’t wait for my favorite aunt because she always hugged me up and chatted with me. She always made you feel like the most special person in the world. She greeted people in the way that they needed and spent time with everyone. I cherished anything she brought because I knew she cared for me.
Which leads me to number 3:
3. It’s easier to share a gift than it is to share yourself.
Your favorite people are those who willingly share themselves with you. They show you their faults, and they’re honest about how the world has affected them. They have what’s called “character”.
It’s hard to show people you care for them when everyone has been hurt in some way or another. Being connected and intimate with others makes you vulnerable. Feelings of love are wrapped up in feelings of disappointment and resentment. That complex bundle of emotion can’t be dealt with in a few hours, and that may be the only time we see the people we hate to love.
Instead of bringing Iyanla to fix us, we bring guilt and we bring gifts.
Anything is better than the awkward conversation that comes with trying to heal years of familial misunderstanding. Or you could just wait til this happens and leave.
But it’s like that every year, isn’t it?
Next year, let’s think about giving in to the giving spirit more than once a year. But give fewer things and more of yourself. We follow people like Richard Branson and Marie Forleo not because they have lots of money, but because they freely share themselves in all they do. Not just on special occasions.
Set up some time randomly during the year to hang out with those people you overwhelm with gifts during the holidays. It’s easier, and you’d be surprised how much they appreciate that more.
Do you “binge-give”? Is it worth it? Comment below.