There will be an empty chair as we open presents with my family this year. And I hope that wonderful man’s love for the slower, mindful pace, even on Christmas morning, will not be forgotten.
Ours has been one of those families where each person takes their turn opening one present at a time, and saying thank you before moving onto the next person.
It may sound excruciating to those who grew up differently. It may seem formal by some people’s standards. But to me, and definitely to my Dad, it was not about formality at all.
It made space and time for feeling gratitude, and feeling love and connection. That time and pace kept Christmas morning from becoming one big possession binge.
Yes it was a struggle when the youngest members of our family wanted to attack the pile of presents under the tree. But slowing things down, let them practice something more than self-control. It gave them a chance to really feel some of the best emotions we can feel: Happy anticipation, gratitude and love.
So if it seems worthwhile, here are some suggestions for making the most of those little moments during your gift exchange:
- Compassionately notice all the things you may feel ahead of opening gifts. It can be a pretty vulnerable experience. “Will they like what I got them?” … or “Will I be able to act like I like what they got me?” … Naming those stressful feelings will keep them momentary.
- Try to remember the altruistic purpose of gift giving, even if it coexists with stress. However complex, it is meant to be an expression of love, care or appreciation.
- In the moment of the gift exchange, try to share your attention between the activity of doing it, and compassion for your feelings as you do it.
- How does it feel to give a gift that you are pretty sure the person is going to love?
- How does it feel to give a gift that you aren’t sure the other person will like?
- And how does it feel to remember that the gifts you receive were chosen to communicate care and love for you?
- After the unwrapping is finished, tune in to yourself again and do your best to drink in a feeling of love for the moment and the good intentions that made it possible.
And in one final bid for self-compassion, please don’t feel pressure to make any of these ideas another ‘should’ this holiday. We don’t need any more “should’s” in our lives. Maybe just do your best to remember that you deserve to take your time, if possible. You deserve to savor goodness, gratitude and joy whenever and wherever you can.