Shopping at Costco last week, I noticed that Christmas decorations are already for sale. And as I talk to clients, I have noticed that we are setting goals based on what can be done between now and the end of the year.
It seems to me that our sense of time, and of the passing of time, has changed. The beginning of October used to be about thinking up Halloween costumes. The beginning of November was about making plans for Thanksgiving. The beginning December was about Christmas, and perhaps New Year’s. But now, the end of the year seems to be blurred into one super-sized month of activities – a month that is seven weeks long, but still a blur.
When I was a kid, Halloween costumes were scrounged up from odd bits of costumes and masks that were in our dress-up box. Then, it was about polishing silver for the big holiday dinners. And finally, getting the ornaments out and testing strings of lights to make sure they all lit up. Presents were not so important; it was being together and doing things that made each holiday special to us.
What are you doing to make holiday traditions for your family? Do you visit the pumpkin patch? The Christmas tree farm? Do you and your kids make ornaments from popcorn and cranberries? From construction paper and ribbon? Do you make special cards by cutting up old cards and pasting them together as collages? Do you make cookies? Go caroling?
The issue is this: what message do you want to give to your family about the holidays? Is it a time to spend money that you may not have, or is it a time for your family to work together to create memories? If that is what you want, how do you go about it?
Last year, a client’s ex husband spent $125 on a “Southern Belle” Halloween costume that was worn for less than a day, and might just as easily have been created for much less by visiting a thrift store for the dress, shoes, and hat that it involved. Throw on some of Mommy’s old make up, and there you go. But my client’s ex chose to give his daughter his money, rather than his time, to create her costume. The little girl was happy for the moment, but my client understood that her child would much rather have a creative adventure with her Dad, than an expensive costume that she would never use again.
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Memories are built from things that you do together. Time together is more valuable than a one-click present. Baking cookies, making costumes, creating decorations are things that can be done on any budget. If money is really short, the gift of time works – spend time volunteering at an animal shelter. Or at a nursing home or a food bank. Teach your kids that giving of themselves is the best gift of all. Show them by example. Give them the gift of your time. And have a Happy Hallothankschristnewyear!