Families are getting together again. They’re driving, flying, taking the train…whatever it takes to be together for Christmas. Many families spend vast amounts of money to be together on Christmas day to be present with one another. But, has the Christmas holiday become more about presents than presence?
According to American Research Group the average person is planning on spending $646 on gifts for Christmas. People are buying video games, clothes, jewelry, and a new Lexus (because it’s a December to Remember, right?). The ironic thing to me is that the presents that we receive often remove us from the presence of one another.
The kids will take their toys and play with them until they are too tired and bored. The adults will try on their new clothes and eat until they’re stuffed full while watching movies, sports, or TV shows. We’ll all be together, but on Christmas day will we really be present? Will we create memories beyond the annual opening of packages or will we settle for the idea that time together means we have been present? Being present is very different than being together.
My eyes have just been opened to this idea. Being together and doing our own thing is easy, being present takes work and effort. We have to listen to one another and share the time we have without all the distractions of our presents. It is good to give and receive, but when the presents get in the way of our presence we need to take a step back and evaluate what is happening to us.
Here are some ideas I have for making sure that our family experiences the presence:
- Turn off the TV. If all our attention is focused on a screen we really are not being present with one another. Simply turning off the TV invites presence.
- Play a game. I have fond memories from my childhood of games that the wholefamily was involved in and I will cherish those my entire life. Find something the whole family can play and invite everyone who is willing.
- Some assembly required. If you have kids they will probably open a toy that requires assembly. Whether it is placing stickers, building legos, or assembling a new doll-house, work needs to be done. Sit down and spend time with the kids putting them together. I have never forgotten the help I received and neither will they.
Most families will open presents on Christmas day. Experiencing presence requires planning and work. Presents will fade and break but Presence is something that lasts a lifetime.