Tis the season!  In light of the Christmas spirit, we thought we’d share in a few gift-giving alternatives that you can mull over while you sit fireside with your cup of hot coco in hand.  Of course, these are not in any way, new ideas or trends.  Here’s the catchphrase: Christmas is not about the gifts.  Yes, we have all heard this little jingle time and time again – in the Christmas hymns and carols we sing, in the films we watch and the books we read.  Yet many of us continue to imbibe the obligations of gift giving rather than rejoice in the delight of its true significance.

The real heart of the season is driven by the generous spirit, a need to assist, to empathize, and to find compassion and care, even for those whom may not deserve it or even appreciate it.  These principles of charitable essence can be found in the small and few, rather than the big and plentiful, and they are what the spirit of Christmas is all about.  Chronicling your family history by collecting and showcasing old photographs, letters and documents is a great way to involve your family in the homespun efforts of the past that make our present.  You can frame meaningful photographs, give away a basket of home-baked goodies, donate to a charity in the name of a loved one, or create a unique experience through a joint family activity or trip.  Then of course there are those kinds of gifts that are slightly more incorporeal.  These gifts are the kind that make us human, the stuff of legend and the fibre of divinity.  Potted flowers or herbs left anonymously on a friend or neighbour’s doorstep…cleaning up the house or bedroom without having been asked to do so; calling an estranged friend or relative or writing a letter to someone you haven’t seen in years, (or just simply writing a real old-fashion, pen-to-paper-to-post letter without texting, emailing or Facebook!)   Why not give away the last great book you enjoyed to someone with like interest, or shovel snow for an elderly neighbour?  Every small yet significant gift of love is the butterfly effect for a greater, universal peace that reverberates and transcends.

As we sit in custody by the giant of Western consumerism, our hands need not be tied behind our backs.  Gift giving does not have to feel like a duty or onus, rather it is a genuine opportunity to love somebody else.   Of course, while most of us are spellbound by commercial capitalism, it’s far too easy to lose sight of the giving over the getting.  So instead of asking our children what they want for Christmas this year, why not start by asking them what they want to give?  By giving our children the opportunity to experience the fundamentals of the season, we are in turn, teaching them the essence of giving as a language of love.  So in your quest to find that perfect gift, lest you not forget that the greatest gifts one can give might well be those that do not adorn fancy price-tags or name-tags or shiny red and green gift-wrap.  After all, aren’t those the better gifts to give?  For they are the ones that come directly from us.

-Elizabeth Cucnik