December blog: the gift of … ?

December blog: the gift of … ?

Christmas can be so much more than gifts, financial stress and family logistics on Christmas Day. As a Marketer by trade, I’ll be the first one to tell you that Christmas is the best season to market practically anything. We can turn any product or service into “the gift that keeps on giving” or “give a gift of difference” … or my personal favourite “we believe in the gift of ….”

With one in three Aussies planning to spend less on gifts this year than last year[1]it makes me wonder not only about the endless sales we have throughout the year, but also, where is our money going throughout this all-important Christmas trade? In 2018, RACQ reported[2]that Gen X donated $76pp to charity and Gen Y donating $61pp. Overall, Aussies on average spent $464pp on gifts!

I LOVE Christmas, like absolutely LOVE it. Aside from sharing my birthday with religious figures, Christmas gives me all the warm and fuzzies. I adore writing Christmas cards, buying gifts that are different and heavily thought about, wrapping gifts with ornaments tied to the ribbon and getting more excited about giving someone’s gift than they are to receive it. Geeky? Maybe! Is it me? You can be old Saint Nick it is!

In 2017 we had our daughter. A traumatic birth (as far as our first world country standards), it followed with mental health struggles and deep vulnerability. That first Christmas with her is a memory that still sits with me. After becoming a parent our spend had to change, not for the amount of friends having babies but because our budget moved to swimming lessons, daycare, coffee intake, nappies, etc. This change in spend and what had become “obligatory giving season” meant some honest conversations of “Let’s just focus on the kids at Christmas … but only those we see all the time.” Awks.

We didn’t buy presents for all the children I have been an “Aunty” for prior to our daughter’s birth. We got creative – giving our family members photos in lovely photo frames instead of gifts and a few small gifts to close friends (who we saw regularly) like their first Christmas ornament. We ourselves were gifted many generous presents from others … and it’s here that guilt sank in, as I started to feel guilty about our gifting changes. It was that 2017 Christmas that I thought about my priorities and how guilt had to take a back seat.

I’ve been blessed to work in countries where children don’t have parents. Children who have suffered neglect, abuse and deep loneliness. And the one thing I know to be true, is that children, universally, just want to be loved. Dr Brene´ Brown says that “We are hard wired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it there is suffering[3].”

My guilt for not spending or gifting to my usual standards started to lighten up as I thought about Christmas no longer being about the obligatory gifting. More so about how we give so much of ourselves throughout the year to our friends, family and community. It’s about our daughter and the experiences we gift her. The gift of family love, community support and most of all, precious memories that will create her values and beliefs as she grows.

And sure, Christmas is a time where I think of those eyes around the world that looked at me, seeking love and connection. I wonder if I gave enough of myself and if those children have found what they were so desperately looking for in a connection. It’s those experiences where each Christmas I will look at my little family deep in their eyes and know how much I give them every single day.   

Christmas is about the connection we create with those we love, creating safe environments in time of vulnerability and giving where you haven’t thought of giving before. Maybe it’s closer than you think.

Merry Christmas my fellow parents and community members, thank you for giving Duck & Play the gift of community this year.

[1]https://www.businessinsider.com.au/australia-christmas-shopping-discounts-bargains-retail-2019-11

[2]https://www.racq.com.au/Living/Articles/The-cost-of-Christmas-in-2018

[3]https://www.forbes.com/sites/danschawbel/2017/09/12/brene-brown-why-human-connection-will-bring-us-closer-together/#7764157e2f06