As a kid, I couldn’t fathom why grownups said, “No presents.” What? That was a part of what made Christmas so fun! The anticipation, the mad scramble of ripping paper, diving into a box to find hidden treasure, and playing with new games and toys. As I grew older, the quantity of presents decreased as their monetary value increased. Still, what became even more significant was time spent with friends and family.
Especially after I married and moved to Virginia, reuniting with Seattle friends and family was my favorite gift. One Christmas when my dad was diagnosed with cancer, we joined together not knowing if his next Christmas would be in heaven. It was. That Christmas no present could compare with the presence of Dad. What I would give for one more Christmas with him.
Of course, having two little girls meant we enjoyed watching them tear into gifts and squeal in surprise at their treasures. But later they, too, preferred the presence of family. “Don’t give us gifts this year, it’s present enough to fly to Seattle.” Now that they are both in college, we all look forward to their coming home for the holidays, having their presence is more precious than presents.
So what do I give my precious friends and relatives? Here are a few simple ideas to make presents the gift of presence.
MASON JAR MEMORIES: Two friends gave me a mason jar and as many slips of paper as my age. One lunch hour, we wrote one thing we’d like to do together on each slip of paper creating a bucket list of sorts!
COUPON FOR EVENT: Another time, my two daughters gave me a coupon for our trio to get a pedicure. I used to give them coupon booklets with twelve seasonal activities to do over the next year. Now the sisters no longer exchange gifts, but purchase an event they can do together. They value presence more than a gift. This Christmas, their cousins are reuniting in Seattle and instead of exchanging gifts, they are opting for an evening out together. These young adults are going to have a great time making memories.
CALENDAR of MEMORIES: Each Christmas I give my mom a calendar made from pictures taken of her grandchildren and her. It’s not expensive to have these made, but it’s her favorite gift, proudly displayed on her kitchen wall for all to see and for her to brag about.
COUPON CARE PACKAGE: When my youngest was still at home, she’d give her college-aged sister a coupon for care packages to be mailed throughout the year, spreading Christmas cheer all year long.
STOCKINGS of CONSUMABLES: My mom, two sisters-in-law, and I sit by the fire on Christmas morning and exchange stockings filled with consumables: soap, chocolate, lotion, lip gloss, and sometimes used items we treasure but know someone else would appreciate more. Spending Christmas morning sharing little gifts, our lives and love is probably one of my favorite traditions.
What do you do at Christmas that shows you appreciate the presence of others? I’d love to hear about it. If you’re looking to celebrate the heart of Christmas, check out Preparing My Heart for Advent.
**This September my favorite birthday gift was the announcement that Stars in the Grass was one of three finalists for the Christy Award for First Novel. In November I flew to Nashville for the Gala Event where I was awarded the Christy Award for Debut Novel of the Year 2017. What a great Christmas present!