The holiday season is always a little rough for me. Yes, I absolutely love the holidays. But there’s a big part of me that wants to buy everyone everything. It wants to charter a jet and fly my family and close friends to Vienna to go skiing for Christmas — all expenses paid (with gifts delivered to their rooms on Christmas morning — and puppies for the kids).
I got it, you guys, really, it’s nothing…
I’m being real with you, ever since I was a poor kid, I’ve wanted to go HUGE for Christmas — just one year — and so far, I haven’t been able to.
This year, as in many years, I can spring for my close family, but there are so many people on my ever-growing roster who I’ll have to skip. And it pains me to write that.
In the last few months, my wife and I have moved across the country to Chicago so I can help my friend open a spiritual center. (No, I didn’t say start my executive position at Goldman Sachs.) Our living expenses have increased quite a bit from our small town out west and our financial situation hasn’t increased in kind. To say things are a bit tight is the real deal.
Yes, we’re fine. Yes, we can pay rent and necessities while enjoying a nice dinner out every now and then. Yes, I have the luxury to write this. But we’re not raking it in. And we work for ourselves, which means — who knows what next month will bring, right?
Trust me, this is no sob story. I’m blessed beyond imagination. To live in this spectacular city and be healthy with a beautiful family and friends and creative work and all the trimmings — I hit the cosmic jackpot being born into this life of mine.
I know there are so many of us in this boat right now. We’re doing great, but we’re not exactly #crushing it. Maybe this is you.
Which is why I recommend ditching the high-priced holiday gifts this year for hygge.
I’ve written about hygge before several times over these last few years, but in a nutshell, it’s a Danish word that describes the basis of their culture as focused on contentment, comfort, and connection.
Here’s a fantastic definition from The Book of Hygge:
Hygge (pronounced “hoo-gah”) is a quality of presence and an experience of belonging and togetherness. It is a feeling of being warm, safe, comforted, and sheltered.
Hygge is an experience of selfhood and communion with people and places that anchors and affirms us, gives us courage and consolation.
To hygge is to invite intimacy and connection. It’s a feeling of engagement and relatedness, of belonging to the moment and to each other. Hygge is a sense of abundance and contentment. Hygge is about being, not having.
Must I say any more?
What if we could stop stressing so much about buying the next shiny object for someone that will end up in a landfill, stashed away in an attic, or perpetually re-gifted in a year or four? This is insane. Don’t put the value of your relationship on our current contrived, ego/fear/insecurity-based, consumerist, maniacal, social agreement of Christmas.
Yes, gifts are... Nice. Okay, they might even be great. Especially for kids. I’m not vilifying gift buying, at all. But only if you can. And please, no passive-aggressive mind games to make people feel beholden to buy back for you (also, can we stop it with the company-wide gift buying nonsense?).
Anyhow, back to hygge… So, what does this weird word mean for you? here are some ideas to give some hygge for the holidays and keep that bank account nice and healthy…
Gather. Gather as much as you can. Build community. Arrange some sort of gathering that involves being outdoors, an open fire, libations, and food. Kind of like a potluck. But no gifts. Instead of a gift exchange, gather everyone in a big circle and have everyone write on a scrap of paper a quality they want to give up. Everyone writes theirs down (without showing anyone), folds the paper up, and burns it in the fire. Cheers. Cost: Price of the dish you made/brought + scrap paper + pens.
Buy a wood-burning kit and a 50pc pack of wood rounds. Burn what you think is the highest quality of each of your friends into a round in your handwriting, wrap it up, and boom. Take care of 50 friends for less than $40.
Give longer hugs and warmer handshakes. Inquire with people. Ask follow-up questions (people are never expecting follow-up questions these days).
Lend a hand in ways you feel others might be hesitant to ask of you.
The best way of giving hygge for the holidays is giving the present of Presence.
Oh, and don’t do what I’ve done and avoid people who you don’t buy for. Be social and unapologetic for not buying a gift. Instead, when you’re with them, see them as your gift and yourself as theirs. Seriously, this life is not guaranteed. Don’t take anyone’s life — or yours — for granted. Just showing up is beyond amazing and I guarantee you that the demands you’re placing on yourself of having to buy gifts for so many others are mostly made up by you. If you could truly read their mind, most people are okay if you don’t buy for them (even if their illusory egos might be temporarily bruised — that’s their problem, not yours).
You are alive. If you’re my friend, even if I take this for granted, this should be more than enough for me this holiday season. So give me you and I’ll give you me. (I think this goes back to that whole Namaste thing, right?)
Contentment. Comfort. And connection.
The gifts that feel just as good to give as to receive.
This, friends, is the meaning of abundance.
I know. I really wish I could put them all on a jet this Christmas. And if ever I’m able to, you can bet I will. But gift or no gift — epic trip or no epic trip — hygge is something that anyone can give. And really, it’s all anyone wants.