I have always loved the exchanging of gifts. A few years ago I discovered that “Gifts” is, in fact, my Love Language. It is how I show people affection, and it is how I tend to gauge someone’s affection toward me. As you can imagine, the latter brings with it much disappointment, as not everyone expresses love through the giving of tokens. But I do, and as I’ve come to understand this about myself, I have learned to put all of my expectations into the giving and try not to take the receiving so personally. It brings me great, unending joy to put together highly personal gifts for loved ones. I want them to know that I shopped with them in mind, searched for the exact right item that would be appreciated and (hopefully) loved by them, and that I tried my best to give them something that would fit their interests and their personalities. Of course, Christmas provides me the very best opportunities to express my love for each and every person in my life.
For many years I worked to make creative gifts by hand, but after a long stretch it became apparent that I had exhausted the possibilities for most of my family and friends. Gift-giving became a little more expensive when I was forced to purchase every gift, but the search for that just-right gift was no less enjoyable. And it still lent itself to creativity, if not artistic expression. A bonus to purchasing all of my gifts came in the realization that I would be able to actually shop during the Christmas season. When gifts are handmade, the work begins much earlier in the year. But with shopping I am able to find inspiration in my surroundings rather than create it on my own, and I slowly came to love the shopping process. I love being surrounded by the glitz and glitter and tinsel that fills stores for the six weeks (or more) of the holiday season. I love wandering among the aisles of ornaments and wrap supplies and trinkets and decorations, and I love hearing the Christmas tunes wafting through the ceilings. I am inspired by this atmosphere, and I can spend hours and hours just browsing and gathering ideas. I don’t spend much money — my family has always been less about the amount of presents than about the intention and the practicality — but I always look for the most perfect little thing to add to my original shopping list. Sometimes I find an extra ornament, or perhaps a fantastic little seasonal item that I must give to someone on my list. More often than not, I just gather ideas and take them home to implement in some creative way of my own. These are the ways that I can still make Christmas very personal to me and to the recipient of my creativity. And whether or not they really understand what I put into it, I am so happy with the experience that the actual opening of the gift becomes almost secondary. I’ve learned not to take any of it so personally anymore, although I do pay attention to the hits and misses so that next year I can be better informed and make the gift and the recipient more compatible.
I’m usually very good about having all the gifts pulled together in plenty of time, but in recent years I’ve struggled with one or two last-minute items. I’ve learned that my enthusiasm for finding the perfect gifts wanes considerably as the big day draws closer. I’m not a good shopper when people reach the stage of madness, and it’s during this last week before Christmas that people tend to be crazy. That takes all of the fun out of my experience, so I simply do my best to complete all of my tasks prior to Christmas week. This year, despite not making one thing by hand, I managed to make that happen. There’s still wrapping to do, but the main tasks are complete. And I find a great sense of accomplishment in that! By completing the largest task of the holiday season, I am now free to enjoy the days leading up to Christmas. I can spend an evening wrapping. I can journal my memories. I can pull out Christmas photos and relive those days that are so fuzzy in my mind. These things bring just as much joy to me as the gift exchanges, and I want to really focus on them this year. For some reason, my past just seems very important to me right now. And I don’t want to miss the opportunity to explore those memories and compile some of them for next year’s Christmas season. I can’t think of anything better than pulling out a box of Christmas items and finding a journal of years past. The gifts will likely be pictured there, too, but what I remember the most is the laughter and the joy of sitting around a living room with my family and sharing what we’ve done for each other. These are the greatest gifts.
Documenting the days of Christmas was inspired by Ali Edwards’s December Daily project and the Holidays in Hand class by Jessica Sprague.
“You’d Better Not Pout” was created by Mary Engelbreit