Stop confusing “stuff” with love. Our society seems to be obsessed with the idea that more is better, and we behave as though possessions indicate status and worthiness. During the holidays, those beliefs manifest themselves in the giving of gifts. Doggedly we shop, wrap, and exchange presents with one another…even though (if we’re honest with ourselves) we generally find little fulfillment in this tradition.

A lot of our holiday stress is tied to obligatory spending. In fact, many Americans are already stretching their budgets way past the point of comfort. And beyond that, most people we spend money on would breathe a huge sigh of relief if we just stopped the gift-giving madness. When my son was 17 he came to me and wanted to talk about Christmas shopping.  He told me he loved the holidays but felt so stressed out shopping for presents. When so many of us have more than what we need giving more “stuff” felt insane to him. When he made that declaration it was incredibly freeing for me as I also felt the exact same way.  He said he wanted to spend more time over lovely meals with each other and meaningful conversations.  As a family we came up with the idea instead of giving presents to each other we would find someplace each year to give where our hearts were connected and it could make a difference in someone’s life.  That first year there was an article in our local  newspaper about a couple that had adopted 10 special needs kids. This called out to us.  Later we received the most beautiful thank you letter on how the money was used for those amazing kids and created opportunities they wouldn’t have had.

Most of us are using gifts as symbols of our love for others, but the message isn’t translating.  We’d all feel much better if we channeled that gift-exchange energy into healing, loving, and getting to know and respect one another’s true selves.

So what are some things you can do with those you love where you really show and express love or fun and don’t mix up the emotion of love with stuff.  Below are just a few ideas of things I do in my life over the holidays that bring joy.  You can also create your own ideas!!


Have a get together with a small group of people you truly love, where there is a real connection between your hearts.  Instead of buying presents for each other take turns honoring one person at a time.  You can have a special chair with a beautiful cloth on it and it can be like a throne.  One person sits there at a time.  The other people take turns saying what they most love about that person, what gifts they see in them, what they most wish for them.  Each person takes a turn sitting in the special chair being seen and valued by the others.

Do a Native American Potlach or “giveaway”.  You can do this with a group of people you know very well or one you hardly know at all.  I have done this with classes I have facilitated, where we have met as a group for an extended period of time and gotten to know each other.  Also, I am leading a group of women to Guatemala for three weeks and we will be there over the holidays. It is a new group and we are all doing this for Christmas day.   The KEY thing is you bring a gift from your home, a gift that really tugs at your heartstrings.  It should be something that you truly love and that is hard to even think of letting go of.

My aunt who is one of the dearest people ever in my entire life, passed away a few years ago.  She loved me my entire life unconditionally.  After she passed her children gave me this little figurine of a mother image carrying a big gold heart in her arms.  I treasure this so dearly as it reminds me of my aunt and the love we shared.  I am thinking of bringing this as my give away because I love it so much it is hard to part with it.  When it is hard to part with the item you know you are on the right track!

You wrap your gift before you bring it. When you get to the Potlach you place all the gifts in the center of the room or on a table.  You draw numbers and whoever draws “one” is the first person to choose a gift. They choose a gift and open it and then share what that present means to them.  Then the person who gave the gift comes forward and shares what that gift meant to them and to their heart and why they chose to give it. Then that person takes their turn in choosing a gift and so on.  Profound synchronicities show up in what is given and received.  It is really a beautiful expression of love.


Give the gift of humor. We have started a tradition of giving what we call a white elephant.  For several months we are on the look out for the most hideous, garish, silly, horrible thing we can find from a thrift store for just a few dollars. This is done in a similar way as above.  The person drawing “one” starts and the person who gave the gift goes next, either taking something new or taking something someone already has.  The items people come up with are so hilarious we sometimes laugh until we cry.  It is so much fun! And you can always give the gift you receive back to the thrift store!
Realize you don’t necessarily need to do the holidays how they have always been done in the past.  You can think outside of the box and create the holidays in a way that aligns your values and heart in this present moment.