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To Gift or Not Too Many Gifts. . .

Erin and Scott Iler take a moment to enjoy the spirit of the season- annual tree lighting.

As Iler Woods busily creates, prepares, and wraps holiday gifts for our community, I paused for a moment to wonder how gift giving originated during this season.

From Black Friday Sales, to Small Business Saturday, to Cyber Monday, this is the busiest time of year for retail and it's also the time of year when many individuals are reminded that they do not have the means to buy extravagant gifts.

It’s a mixture of emotion in our home about running a business and selling items; but also to remind ourselves that it is more than gift giving during this season.

I decided to research the history of gift giving. Here are some of the facts I found when I went down the rabbit hole of researching online.

Thousands of years ago. . .

This was a pagan holiday in honour of the agricultural god, Saturn. Romans would spend the week of Saturnalia much like how we spend Christmas holidays today – feasting, drinking, giving gifts, and being joyful.

Then. . . When Christianity folded these rituals into Christmas, the justification for bearing gifts was redirected to the Three Wise Men, the Magi, who gave gifts to the infant Jesus.

Now. . .

Just in time for the holidays, comes new research that says you get more satisfaction from giving gifts than receiving.

Hmm, I do wonder how it morphed from eating and being joyful, to simple gift giving, and now to buying furniture, technology, etc on Black Friday.

Have we diverted off the road a bit about the meaning of this holiday season? If there is psychological research about gift giving, then clearly our society has "super sized" this act.

I confess in our own home, when our girls were little, there was so much around Santa Claus and Christmas morning. The excitement, the magic, the mystery of these gifts arriving.

But as our girls mature into young women, my new focus is on finding JOY during this season and spreading JOY, rather than the monetary gifts.

If I had it my way, I would ask all of my family and friends to make a gift from their heart rather than to spend an excessive amount of money.

I have also found that after being an educator for over 20 years, this season is extremely hard on many families. Just like in the children’s book The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss- there are two groups the Star Belly Sneetches and The Plain Belly Sneetches.

This class differentiation is apparent in classrooms as some kids talk about all the gifts they will receive this year and the fancy vacations they will be taking during the winter break; while other kids will be helping their parents work over the break and hopefully be able to enjoy a meal together.

This post is not intended to make us feel guilty or sad about the holidays but to raise awareness. There is no need to get stressed and try to get all “The Deals” of the season with shopping. There is no need to compare your relatives with the amount of items that are being given.

There is a need to put the brakes on monetary consumption. Become a conscientious shopper. Pause and think: Am I trying to buy quantity or quality?

Does it feel like more of a chore to buy gifts or am I finding JOY in this?

Does this gift have meaning or am I trying to check a box to complete this task?

I am also reminded this time of year that the greatest gift anyone can have is health. As many of you know, 16 years ago around this time, my dad was very ill. All we wanted that Christmas was a way for my dad to receive a liver transplant. Sadly, that did not happen. We didn’t care about any monetary gifts.

This is a reminder each year in my heart, when I start to get sucked in with commercials, with what other people are posting about holiday gifts and fancy trips they are taking, that I have the greatest gifts.

I have health, I have my family (each one of you know who you are), I have a warm home to enjoy on cold nights,
I have peace in my heart.
This is all I need.

And when I repeat that mantra, all the other chatter slowly dissipates.

Try creating your own mantra this holiday season. When it starts to get overwhelming, come back to that. Share your mantra.

And I have a hunch that no one is going to include in their mantra “I have a sports car or an iphone 15.”

"If we could forever live in a little cabin". . . that is the Iler Woods mantra.

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