No matter our age, I think we all get a bit spellbound by the dance of twinkling lights. As young children, we are easily entranced by the sparkle of our own candle-lit birthday cakes and eagerly drift into some magical place.
Even as adults, we are still intoxicated by Times Square’s brilliant light show. How can we not be? It’s a sensory explosion of grandeur that is seamlessly hyponotizing. But lights do not only dazzle, they can “light” us up inside too. They can often ignite and elevate our spirits. Or not.
With Chanukah and Xmas approaching, holiday lights are abundant everywhere; decorations on every street and in every store, and adorning our homes with a festive energy.
But all this glitter and glam may be transmitting an underlying message. It punctuates a particular segment of the year that for some, triggers more anxiety than glee. The round the clock media push to encourage holiday spending can be nothing short of stressful. It tends to be all about shopping, shopping, and more shopping. Consumerism on steroids.
Are you frazzled by all the dazzle? Does it instigate more holiday stress?
Here comes the true confessional. Rewind 25 years ago. Guilty, present, and accountable. Especially as a young doting mom, I indulged my children with way too many presents. Yes, I did that. It happened. Lured by the melodic holiday bells and whistles, resisting the impulse to buy everything for my children was admittedly, so very difficult. It’s was an easy trap to fall into, and I fell hard.
The hustle bustle was exciting and while I bought into the holiday mania hook, line, and sinker, it was not devoid of stress. The long gift lists, wish lists, and the laborious wrapping consumed my days. And yes, I even gift wrapped the accompanying batteries to every toy! (what was I thinking?)
And yet on the first night of Chanukah, I witnessed the once beautifully gift-wrapped boxes torn to shreds in seconds. At the end of the day, I was left with a huge paper clean-up and way too many toys.
Eventually, it all became too much. I watched with increased awareness that my kids were only playing with their newest toy and seemingly ignored the others that I had relentlessly wasted time hunting down. They were clearly overwhelmed and over-acquired, and that was my fault.
Ultimately, I set limits on the amount of incoming gifts from other family members as well, and was inclined to rethink the whole concept of gift giving.
Hindsight being 20/20, this is what I’ve learned. Passing the wisdom, heed the lesson:
While in the throes of the holiday glow, it’s easy to lose sight of your goals and more importantly, your budget. But truthfully, the holidays need not be so stressful. Here are some things you can do to avoid the frazzle;
1. Shop smart: Try to be more practical and sensible with gift giving. Better to buy what one really needs and reduce returns.
2. Shop simple: Purchase gift cards and reduce the stress of hunting down the perfect gift. Personalize it by accessorizing it with a small trinket, favorite wine or sweet treat. Put your love stamp on it.
3. Set Limits: We can’t have it all, so stop trying. Adapting to less is more attitude starts with gratitude for what we do have.
4. Go Green: Go green with holiday gift wrap. Be creative and keep it simple. It’s about the gift, not the wrap. This will save you both time and money.
5. Go Creative: Get the kids involved and make a DIY night of gifts. Homemade treasures always trump a store-bought gift.
6. Go Educational: Encourage reading with the gift of a book, or any creative plaything that stimulates learning.
7. Go Kind: Make room for the new incoming, and pare down. Donate your un-desirables to those less fortunate. Teach your kids the blessings of giving.
8. Go Clutter-free: Gift with an intangible. Give the gift of special time with your family and create a memory. Give your kids creative gifts of privilege (picking a movie, favorite restaurant, extra bedtime story, or special planned fun days)
The Xmas and Chanukah holidays are one of the most beautiful times of the year, but not because of the glistening tinsel. It’s about family and friends enjoying each other. If we shift our focus more on how we are spending the holidays and less about the actual holiday spending, it can feel very different. For me, sharing the festivities with family and friends are unequivocally the best kinds of gifts. Truly, it’s about the moments, not the things.
As this holiday season approaches, be mindful that the dazzle may frazzle you, only if you let it. Find ways to reduce the holiday havoc. Above all, remember that embracing the joy that family and friends can provide, and creating sustainable memories, will endure long after the holiday lights are dimmed.