Well, the title says it all, really. Job done then – I can sign off! (Only joking!!!) But as the hype for ‘Black Friday’ sales gears up several notches, the above Biblical quotation is at the heart of my thoughts today.
Of course those who are engaged in manufacturing and selling are keen to persuade us to buy their wares as much and as frequently as possible. It is their business, their livelihood. But we don’t have to pay attention to them. Christmas/Midwinter is a time for giving, for generosity, for inclusivity, community, friendship, thanksgiving and joyful service to others.
Consider what truly matters in our lives. What is most important to you? To your family and friends? After the basics of a weatherproof home and sufficient food and clothing have been taken care of, it is usually the intangible gifts which spring to mind: peace, rest, friendship, good company, love – and pleasant activities shared with others who also enjoy the same.
So, tear up your Christmas shopping lists, put your purse away. It is time to don the mantle of the Spirit of Christmas Present and begin to make some magic of your own. Get out a clean sheet of paper and a pen and begin to make your real Christmas list!
First and foremost comes ‘Quality Time’. How many friends and relations would love to hear from you (phone or email, etc.) or actually spend time in your company? How many days, weeks, months speed past while we lament that we would love to see or speak to so-and-so but just haven’t got the time? You could probably free up several whole days if you weren’t distracted by fighting through crowds of harassed shoppers, frantically surfing the net, or losing yourself beneath seas of wrapping paper as you attempt to parcel up all the resulting purchases.
Instead, pick up the phone, or better still, go round to visit someone… more genuine joy can be given over a shared cup of something hot (or a glass of wine) and a biscuit, or a good big hug, or minutes spent with a comforting, supportive arm around a shoulder than ever can be bought on the High Street. Remember the pandemic? How many of us would have given anything to be able to physically see and touch a loved one? How many of us would have sacrificed all the rest of the seasonal palaver just to be able to be together?
Well, now you can.
In some ways the pandemic was a blessing in disguise – it allowed us to get our priorities right. Why not carry on in that vein now that those imposed restrictions have been lifted.
There are all sorts of activities and events which can be planned for two or more people – family or friends of all ages, and why not extend your hospitality and include mere acquaintances or neighbours your don’t really know at all. This is the time to change all that – in the season of God Will. Open your home (and your heart) and organise a games evening, (could simply be playing Gin Rummy), or a quiz night – ask everyone to contribute a packet of nibbles or you could bake something to share like mince pies or biscuits or a cake, or simply serve cups of tea or coffee with a packet of biscuits. Light a couple of candles or tea lights, burn some incense cones if you have them, play some festive music in the background and you have instantly created a Christmas atmosphere. Without lots of work putting up decorations or spending a fortune.
There are other activities which can be substituted in a similar way. Even if there are only the two of you – better still if there are a group – ask everyone to bring a Christmas poem or story to read aloud and share. Alternatively, sing and make music. Invite everyone to find three jokes to share. (Laughter is a great gift – and it lowers blood sugar too). Begin your time together by constructing fantastic Christmas hats for each other made from old newspaper or gift wrapping, decorated with bits of tinsel, ribbon or parcel tie.
Arrange to meet up and go for a walk – walks around towns and villages can be exciting at this time of year – a mosey around an Christmas fair or market, a cup of hot chocolate drunk outside in the chilly damp air, a saunter down a road to see everyone’s Christmas decorations in gardens and windows can be very enjoyable, especially when shared with someone dear to you. This is an activity which can be enjoyed by people of all ages, and shared by the generations too.
Organise a shared meal at your house, where everyone brings an edible component, hot or cold, sweet or savoury. We particularly love to do this when our grove gathers; for instance, one person will provide a pan of hot soup, another a savoury flan or bowl of salad, crusty bread, or savoury nibbles, a trifle, fruit crumble or cake, and yet another cheese and biscuits, or fresh fruit. Before you know it, a veritable feast is set before you, one which didn’t cost anyone much time or effort – Christmas Dinner can be approached in a similar way – it spreads the cost, the preparation and work and a great deal of the responsibility and stress. (Just ensure that you know what everyone is contributing beforehand or else you might find yourself with with four dozen pigs in blankets, two boxes of cheese biscuits and a potted poinsettia.)
You may also wish to get together with friends, family or neighbours to make and bake – take a morning, afternoon or evening – weekday or weekend – and have a baking session, or a making/sewing/knitting session. How about you all make Christmas crackers (again, craft materials can then be shared and makes for less expense). Crackers are a particularly good way of parcelling up and presenting small inconsequential gifts – nicely presenting tokens in your new mindfully reduced gifting regime, or conveying something small but significantly special in a unique way.
How about making sweets to give as gifts?
Please do trawl your shops for craft and packaging materials, and support local artisans and businesses as much as possible, but it might also pay you to look on line – if you share similar projects with one or more people you can benefit from buying more cheaply in bulk and dividing the costs as well as the purchases.
Yes, it takes a little forethought and planning, but there is still time. Don’t forget that there are the lovely days between Christmas and New Year to fill as well, or even after New Year as we enter a colder, more inhospitable season. Enjoyment and socialising doesn’t have to grind to a halt and disappear with the last of the baubles into the loft until next December.
Live and love a little! Cancel that. Live and love a LOT!