What is the true Spirit of the Holidays? I say Holidays because people from all cultures celebrate in some way during the Winter Solstice. The long darkness and the return of light fuel us with a desire to gather with our tribe (friends, family & community) & celebrate. The true Spirit of the Holidays is about giving of oneself, unfortunately this has been warped into the need to give stuff. What was once a time of joy has for many turned into a time of high stress, sorrow and feelings of inadequacy-because we can’t afford to give all the stuff we should be giving.
This need to give stuff as a way of showing our love was brought to us by advertisers. We are bombarded regularly with media propaganda telling us that we need to buy shit to show how much we appreciate someone & that we need to buy shit to glitz ourselves up to be presentable for those people who love us. Because apparently our friends and family wouldn’t like us as much if we didn’t give them presents and put on a new outfit to give it to them in. Now I am not saying there is something wrong with giving gifts or getting dressed up for the holidays. What I am saying is the pressure to do so is being falsely created by wizards of the media world who know full well what they are doing. They also know that people will cave to the pressure and buy just for the sake of buying if they are presented with enough posters, television adds and jingles . Hell they go to school for this, they train in it…in many ways a form of psychological attack.
So how do we change? How do we take back our Holidays?
First of all we decide we are not going to cave to the pressure of the Media machine. In making a decision we are taking a stand, we are saying that we will not be brow beaten into buying things we do not want or need. When we decide to give a gift it will be because we truly wanted to share that special something with someone we loved, not that we felt guilted into purchasing things. One of the best ways to strengthen our resolve in this decision is to consider it a matter of ethics. My personal ethics remind me that there is something inherently wrong with being wasteful. Our landfills are over flowing and the world is over populated, for me to buy a bunch of cheap plastic crap that people don’t really need means I am contributing to the flow of waste that is destroying the world that I love. In my doing so it also tells my children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews that I am ok with the consumer mind. Our young people look to us to lead by example. The decision to step away from the media shopping frenzy does not mean that we have to stop giving gifts. It simply means we need to be more mindful in the gifts that we give. We can choose to be different, to be leaders and visionaries.
Look for alternative gift giving ideas-
Go back to your childhood and remember the homemade goodies people use to give, like a box of cookies or a loaf of sweet bread. Make ornaments with your kids to give to the family instead of buying something. Give the gift of time…this is particularly good for the elderly members of our family. Grandma does not need another pair of slippers or 10 boxes of chocolate, what she really needs is quality time spent with her family. Give a card with a gift certificate in it for a lunch date or an evening of playing cards, she will appreciate it a lot more then the slippers. If you have the money to give and still want to step away from the stuff, buy the ones you love dance lessons, yoga classes, ski passes and time at the art studio. There are so many alternatives to the media frenzy version of the Holidays.
My favorite, favorite holiday tradition is REGIFTING. Years ago my sister Sandy & I both spontaneously REGIFTED at our family holiday party. We gave away beautiful, clever, fun things that we owned and did not need or want to people in the family who we thought would really appreciate them. It was one of the best things we ever did. The gifts had meaning and it was one of the best holiday we ever had. In fact it was the inspiration for our Holiday Regifting Swap which we hold annually in the are we live in.
What is the Regifting Swap & How can you start one in your area?
1. We choose a space that is generously gifted to us so that there is no cost-(churches, town halls, & businesses will often let you use their space for free when they realize it is a community service you are providing). * You will need Tables-they are a good idea for putting things out in a way that they are appealing to look at. We are thankful to the Grindstone Cafe in Lyndonville, VT for the generous use of their yoga/community room.
2. Contact a local charity and see if they will accept the remainder of the items left behind from the event (Goodwill, Salvation Army & local thrift stores will usually be grateful for the donations). We are thankful to HOPE in Lyndonville, VT for accepting our donations and the support they provide to the people of our community.
3. Create a poster & facebook announcement letting people know about your event. Have them bring any GOOD quality items that are no longer wanted or needed to the event-household goods, toys, decorations, winter clothes, books, furniture, knick-knacks, jewelry, etc.
4. People who attend can take any item at the Regifting Swap they want for FREE! People need not donate to take items and are welcome to donate items without taking anything. There is no set limit on how many items a person can take, this is an absolutely FREE event.
5. As the host your job is to provide holiday cheer…we usually play festive music, dress up a bit and make sure to talk to the folks who walk through the door. This is a new concept to most and people are shy about taking things. Your job is to encourage them, laugh with them and make it feel like a community event.
6. At the end of the day, donate the remainder of the items to a charity. We are fortunate in that HOPE is across the street from the Grindstone Cafe. We usually end up with people who are so thankful for the event that there are plenty of hands to carry the items to their next destination. The first few years we did this we used a Unitarian Church and had to drive the items to the local Salvation Army. We had no problem finding volunteers to load up their cars and help us make the trip.
I truly hope that the REGIFTING SWAP catches on and spreads to other communities, I know that this year the Teen Association in Bradford, Vt will also be hosting a REGIFTING SWAP. If you have questions on how to start one in your community, please do not hesitate to contact me. Sali@salicrow.com. You can copy our format, posters, whatever is needed to get you started. Let’s change the world folks!
spreading holiday cheer-Salicrow