With the holiday season right around the corner, many are already Christmas oriented with lists of gifts to buy, gift guide researching, and endless budgeting. When it comes to gift guides, there is a plethora. You can find ideas for even the hardest to buy for people in your life and find niche options for those who are into some really niche things. 

While it's a time to ask yourself ~ "What do I need?" and similarly, "What do they want or need?" in regards to friends and family ~ perhaps that question should be further analyzed. It's easy to want something, to "need" something that maybe we really don't need but are easily convinced we do thanks to the really quite clever ads on social. I like to receive and give gifts just as much as the next person, but this year I've been really thinking about impact. Thinking about what I actually need and how I can buy something to consume less. How I can replace items or habits that produce more waste than I'd like, and how I can give to others in more meaningful ways.

I have a large family and am always grateful for Secret Santa this time of year. It means focusing on one person instead of multiple, and it's also much easier on my pocket book. Generally, we spend our time trying to suss out what each family member might want without revealing who we have, and this year, we decided to start a spreadsheet. Good ol' Google Sheets, if you know what I mean. And there, we would include a few things we might want or need.

This is the first year the gift requests took on a different form. We've taken to vouchers. For instance, my oldest brother is a new father and having a child that is not yet 1 means childcare is always a godsend. So he included a voucher for babysitting for an afternoon. Another family member loves board games and there are certain ones we all shy away from. I'm talking Diplomacy. Or Risk. So you guessed it, his voucher is for one serious game of Diplomacy.

While I am sure each of us needs or wants something more material, we also could use support in our daily lives or connection in memorable ways. Sometimes it feels good to take a step back from wanting material things and engage in asks that cater to something a little more.

While I am no historian nor am I someone who's done a deep dive into Christmas giving traditions of the past, I can imagine that things looked a little more handmade. I can imagine that it was a time of being more present for your family and your neighbors, and that a gift wasn't always a formal exchange tied with a bow but rather an increase in generosity. 

So perhaps we could include a little more of that in our holiday season this year. Gifts are wonderful, and we all like to have something to open come Christmas day but I think time is underrated. And it need not be a direct and contractual exchange. Maybe just take some time to think of where others may need support, a friendly smile, a small reminder that someone cares, a helping hand, a homemade meal. And think about what you might like or need from your friendly neighbors. Perhaps if we engage in acts that are more community building, we will feel a part of something more. We may be more willing to lend an ear, consider a different way of thinking, have more empathy toward those whose experiences differ from ours. And we may feel more free within ourselves when we take a step back from consuming in all the usual holiday ways.

To those whose love language is gift giving, then may gifts be bountiful. And perhaps supplement the gifts with something a little more hands on. If you do, let us know what you come up with and how it influences your holiday this year.

And most of all, have a safe and wonderful holiday season. We are thankful for you, and we hope there is a little extra magic in your life this time of year.