How the Grinch Stole Christmas has been a holiday staple in my family for as long as I can remember. I fell in love with the timeless cartoon, then fell even deeper when the live action released. Just last week my husband and I flipped on The Grinch to distract Lottie from a particularly nasty case of diaper rash, and she gleefully meowed every time Jim Carey entered a shot. And I should probably mention that when my husband proposed to me, “Fahoo Fores, Dahoo Dores” played over the loudspeaker.
While I can’t condone hitching a sleigh to your poor, unloved lapdog and launching a Christmas Eve heist, when it comes to holiday gifting, the Grinch can teach us a whole awful lot. (Is that a phrase from the book? I feel like that’s a phrase from the book.)
The Guilt Factor in Holiday Gifting
Does this sound familiar? A January 2018 Market Watch article found that, on average, US shoppers ended the 2017 Christmas season with approximately $1054 in new debt. In 2011, a TODAY survey found that 75% of mothers feel guilty not satisfying a child’s wish-list. SEVENTY-FIVE PERCENT.
Somewhere along the way, the holidays became synonymous with obligation. A need to show appreciation and love. A duty not to disappoint. And what has become the societal vehicle for spreading said cheer? Presents.
As a child, I used to live for the day when the Sears Wish Book would appear in our mailbox. I would spend hours pouring over the pages, marker in hand, starring a good 50 to 100 items. I can’t even imagine what my parents must have thought when I would hand them my pristine wish list on a piece of college ruled paper, lines filled front and back. But I know what I would feel now in their shoes, silently calculating the balance in my bank account as I smile and promise to send the list to Santa.
Look, there are more than enough things stressing us out around the holidays. Christmas gifts were never meant to be one. So let’s re-evaluate our holiday gifting this year and kick guilt giving to the curb.
A Truly Happy Holiday
I don’t know about you, but the earliest story of holiday gifting I ever heard was the Christmas story itself. I can remember sitting in a wooden church pew, listening every year as our Pastor read the story of Christ’s birth, and knowing the gifts by heart: Gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Had you ever heard of anything so lavish? I’ll be honest, I had no clue what two of those three items actually were, but I was pretty certain this was the make of the ultimate Christmas present.
Even so, my favorite Christmas song took on an entirely different spirit. It told the story of a little boy who wanted desperately to honor Jesus but had nothing to give, so he shared the only gift he could–his music.
The holiday season has never been about spending, but giving. I know you’re all rolling your eyes right now. Don’t worry, I am, too. Because that’s the cheesy answer, right? That’s the answer you’re supposed to give while sitting around a ham dinner. We know the truth. People expect presents.
But is that really true? Mamas, I have been the person who overdraws her bank account in the spirit of Christmas. In fact, I can’t remember the last time that I wasn’t that person. Because I wanted to give the best gift. I wanted to see the biggest smile. I wanted my family to know I cared enough to find them the perfect present.
Funny thing is, much as I love seeing presents under the tree, and as much as I have always looked forward to opening them, my favorite part of Christmas has never had anything to do with wrapping paper. No, my favorite part, the moment I wait for all year with anticipation, is standing in a quiet church, holding a simple candle, and singing “Silent Night” in perfect unison surrounded by family.
And that’s not the cheesy, grownup answer. That’s the honest truth.
But Seriously, Though… Presents.
Look, I’m not going to lie to you. Holiday gifting is fun. The office Secret Santa, the packages spilling out from under the tree, the satisfaction of having found the perfect present. It’s exciting to exchange gifts, and I love to do it. But I don’t think my friends want me going broke trying to meet expectations any more than I want them to.
I am not writing today to tell you not to give presents or to do away with Santa. I fully intend to give presents to my daughter. But when the guilt starts creeping in, and you begin to think you aren’t giving enough–that your gifts aren’t good enough and the stockings not full enough–I urge you to remember the little drummer boy. To give spirit, not price tags. To think of the Grinch and the Whos.
Because even if Dr. Seuss hadn’t given us a happy ending, even if the presents had all fallen from Mount Crumpit, the Grinch would still have won Christmas. He won it the moment he recognized the Whos were being ridiculous with all that noise, noise, noise. He won it long before Cindy Lou Who ever started to sing.
That’s how the Grinch won Christmas. He took away all the presents, and the Whos remembered what giving really means.