Presence for Christmas

By Claire Greenhalgh, Director of the Sustainable Activity Centre

We have seven chickens and love to give any spare eggs to friends and family. Often, we have more than we need in our humble home of four, so we gladly share. Frequently it’s done with an exchange of some other item while spending time with the recipient; a cuppa and chat when you drop by. It’s a lovely pause in life, to stop rushing around our self-absorbed busy lives and intersect with others for a moment of connection, support and exchange.

So, as Christmas beckons, I find myself wondering why people are obsessed with buying gifts, as it truly misses the mark of the pleasure of Christmas giving. Frenzied pre-Christmas shopping is simply insane! Shopping in secret, beside thousands of others, combing the aisles trying to match a product to a person. Spending precious hours driving around, parking, shopping, carting, hiding and then preparing our covered bounty. We shop in excess, wrap in excess and give in excess, and we do it alone. This is not special for the receiver. In fact, the shopping splendor detracts from the connection we so fondly desire as the giver or receiver. The day arrives and we react with dropped jaws at the wonder of glossy distractions; red, green, gold wrapping paper (it’s only paper).

We are slowly learning as part of a global community; the simpler life is often the best, and this is true for Christmas time too. Mega flashing lights, opulently colour-coordinated decoration, mounds of adorned presents and getting our wildest wants fulfilled are starting to look like a spoilt 80’s movie script. Distracting us from the basic, simple connection with the person next to us. The connection that makes us truly happy and grateful at Christmas.

How often do we hear the cringeworthy statement ‘It’s the thought that counts’? Yet at a deeper level it’s true – thinking in the present moment about connecting to people, not buying stuff, is the gift! Be mindful of the reason for giving, not the gift. Don’t get wrapped up in the wrapping that ends the day stuffed in the yellow lidded bin. Awareness is key, keep giving your attention and connection, not spending your money and time at the shops, that’s not why people choose to be in your life at Christmas.