Over ten years ago, my mom and dad started a tradition that during stressful years I admit to sometimes resenting but that, despite any bitching and moaning I may do, inevitably makes me feel as excited about Christmas as I used to feel as a kid. Sick and tired of consumerism choking the spirit of Christmas, my parents announced we would no longer be exchanging gifts bought in a store. Instead, we would take turns making a gift for each other.
We each agreed to this decision. Okay, the truth is we were told more than we were asked but no one objected. I think somewhere inside, each of us was feeling a similar longing for something with more substance than we could find on a WalMart shelf.
Although I sometimes hated the extra stress this tradition caused, the excitement of seeing what everyone created has led to far more joy than I could have imagined. There have been more happy tears shed during those amazing gift openings than at any other family function. It’s one thing to see the women cry (the women in my family have no problem expressing emotions) but to see my dad, my husband or my brothers breakdown over the way a gift has touched their heart has left me feeling such deep gratitude for this soulful tradition.
Don’t get me wrong, we don’t always cry and we don’t always make sock-it-to-your-heart kind of gifts but on those rare occasions when someone has poured their heart and soul into a gift and during the great reveal, the receiver stares at the offering speechless you can’t help but feel like you’re sharing a magical moment with everyone in the room. It’s like nothing I’ve experienced before. And the tradition has done exactly what my parents wanted it to do. It has brought us closer as a family. There have been some awkward and hard moments also…I mean, who are we kidding…we’re not perfect and things haven’t always gone off without a hitch. But overall, that one decision – to make gifts instead of buying them – has enriched our lives in more ways than I can share with you in one short blog.
But here are some of the main things I feel it has given my family.
- It has shown the children in our family that you really can do anything you set your mind to.
- It has pushed us to believe in ourselves.
- It has shown each of us how important we are to each other.
- It has forced us to try new things.
- It has encouraged each of us to continuously learn new skills.
- It has taught us we have a lot to learn from each other.
- It has shown us that we each have unique talents.
- It has taught us the value of commitment.
- It has shown even the most reluctant ones that they are creative people even if they never thought of themselves in that way before.
But most importantly, it reminds us every year what a close, tight-knit family we are and how deeply we care for one another and how much we have to be grateful for. A tradition that can do all that is definitely worth keeping…even on the years my schedule is so packed I wonder when I will find the time to fit in making a gift (or on the years like this one where I can’t help but procrastinate and choose to blog about our tradition instead of finishing my gift to my brother. Let’s keep that little secret to ourselves, shall we?).
Here are a few examples of what we’ve created over the years.
Does your family have a tradition that has brought you closer together? If so, I’d love to hear about it.