If you’re celebrating this holiday season, chances are you’ve been busy these past few weeks trying to figure out what presents to buy for your loved ones this year. It wouldn’t be the holidays if you weren’t stressing out about gifts. ‘Tis the season to be frantically online shopping in order to get your nephew the coolest toy, right?
But in this fast-paced, busy world, you’ve probably got a million things on your plate right now. There are holiday parties to be attended, end of the year projects that need to be completed, ice to chip off your windshield, travel to plan … the list goes on. Buying presents on top of all of that may seem like a task too difficult to handle.
Sure, the holiday season can be stressful. You’re not the only one who thinks so. There is a long tradition of Christmas discontentment that stretches as far back as Ebenezer Scrooge. But is the root of this discontentment with the holiday, or with the way we are approaching the holiday? In other words, does our holiday stress arise from transactional tendencies?
Maybe, maybe not. But even the Grinch eventually found happiness in the holiday season. You remember the Grinch? He hated Christmas because “the Whos down in Whoville” would make so much “noise, noise, noise” during their celebrations. He didn’t like how they all got gifts while he got nothing but nuisance, so he decided to steal Christmas from them. He sled right down from the cave he lived in to the town below and stole anything that reminded him of the holiday. Transactional behavior at its finest.
But on his way back home after stealing everything in town that even smelled like Christmas, he heard the Whos down in Whoville wake up and start celebrating anyway. The holiday was never really about the things, but actually about the connections between people. It was about expressing love and celebrating light and joy. The realization inspires the Grinch to go back and give everyone their gifts back and celebrate alongside them.
Stealing the holiday didn’t make the Grinch feel any better- but the interactions he had between himself and the townspeople did. Before he decided to go into the town to steal Christmas, he was hiding away alone in a cave. His only friend was a dog named Max. He didn’t engage with anyone. He didn’t see how transformative it can be to connect to someone in a way that promotes sharing and values the other. He only saw that the townspeople had something that he did not. And so he acted transactionally. He saw it to be a “me versus them” situation.
But the townspeople were thinking more relationally. They did’t think of the holiday as an attempt to make anybody feel left out, but rather as a chance to bring people together. Even after the Grinch steals everything from them, they welcome him with open arms into their celebrations. All of the presents and the decorations pale in comparison to the love that flow through the community. And once the Grinch is exposed to that love, his outlook improves. His desperate reality becomes a little less desperate.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed this holiday season, it might be a good idea to take a page out of the Grinch’s book and change your perspective. Start with engaging with those around you to create connections that are meaningful. Then get grounded. While you may feel like you have too much on your plate, or like the holidays are too stressful, reframing your thinking may help you to get grounded. Realize that what you think may be true might actually not be. Reflect on what you are grateful for. Reflect on who you are grateful for. Why are you grateful for them? Get out and interact with new people. Use your power to spread kindness. Bring people together. Material presents are great, but isn’t the best gift quality interaction?