Black Friday and Beyond

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photo credit: Flickr

Although I know that many Black Friday sales started yesterday on Thanskgiving, I was at my mother-in-law’s house, enjoying food and company and beating my daughter three times in checkers on the iPad, so I am only facing the existence of Black Friday sales today. That’s my choice, and you have choices, too.

I encourage you to make choices leading up to Christmas that allow you to approach the holiday with joy and enjoyment of the delights the season brings. This is the way to “tame Christmas.” Instead of climbing on the Christmas season roller coaster  and being whipped around by other people’s demands and store advertisements and your own expectations that things need to be perfect for you to be happy, you can get into the driver’s seat of the Christmasmobile and take it where YOU want to go this season.

We’ve already talked about how to handle Christmas events this year, and about how to make decisions about Christmas to reduce your stress. Today, let’s talk about gifts.

This video from the TV show Big Bang Theory is a humorous look at how most people view gift giving.

 

How similar is your view of gift giving to Sheldon’s? Do you look at gift giving through the lens of reciprocity–giving a gift to those who give you a gift? Does it fill you with anxiety that you might be given a gift by someone and be unprepared to give one in return? For many people, gift giving is a “non-optional social contract,” as the characters in another episode of Big Bang Theory state. I love this video clip because even though it’s true that most people (not just Sheldon) look at gift-giving this way, it shows how cold and mechanical that can be, which is the opposite of the whole idea of giving gifts.

I have learned to look at gifts another way. The way I see it, a gift is a way to bless someone else. Gifts are an expression that the receiver means something to you, that you care about them enough to bless them with a gift. This viewpoint can change the way you look at both giving and receiving gifts.

For many years, my family could not afford to buy gifts for family members that cost as much as what we received. My MIL and parents still buy for us like they did when we were kids growing up. They buy the same way for their grandchildren. At first, this was uncomfortable. I tried to compensate by spending many hours each year making gifts that would be worth a lot more money than the raw materials. After a while, I accepted the fact that there was no way to reciprocate in kind. But here’s the thing: nobody expected us to!

I now see that giving gifts is a choice by the giver. This works both ways. I have given gifts with no expectation of any in return, and I have received gifts without reciprocating as well. Sometimes I am touched and I want to give a gift in return. Sometimes it is so unexpected that I am unprepared to give a gift in return.

Our words can smooth over some of these awkward gift exchanges. As a receiver of an unexpected gift, we can simply be gracious and explain that we did not expect the gift and thank the giver. As a giver, we can explain that we don’t expect a gift in return. It is amazing to me how people agonize over gift exchanges. Think about it from the other side. Do you expect a gift for every gift you give? Are you going to get angry if your gifts are not reciprocated? That wouldn’t be a nice way to handle things, would it?

Letting go of some of the expectations surrounding gift-giving is a great way to enter the official Christmas shopping season. Get into the driver’s seat, make a list of who you would like to give gifts to, then shop as you see fit. According to your budget and schedule, you may also choose not to give gifts, even if you have done so in the past. This is a legitimate choice, so don’t feel badly. Just explain the situation and go on with your Christmas. It will be okay. Really. Breathe. You’ve got this.

Enjoy your day! Repeat.