Many of us here at the Wellness Institute are the therapists and healers in our own networks. Since we play that role, we often get this question:
"how can I bring something meaningful to change previously unhealthy holiday get-togethers?"
It's an important question. The holiday season can be an inspiring time of the year that fills our communities and families with happiness, and I look forward to it every year. The parties, the family get-togethers, the sharing, the spirit of love and care that permeates myself and those around me.
But long ago I noticed, as I'm sure many of you have also, that family and work get-togethers can be fraught with anxiety and self-consciousness; especially when gift-giving is a part of it. People become concerned about how to afford gifts, who to buy for, how much to spend, and worrying that their gifts will seem "small" or "less meaningful" at gift swap parties where other people can be more extravagant.
If you think this is a problem in your own holiday times (even if it's not a problem for you, it may be a problem for your less affluent family/peers), then here are some alternate ideas for those parties to make sure everyone has a great experience that's filled with joy and not fraught with anxiety.
1. Do a family or group give-away, not a gift-swap.
We have had great success with this when we do this in our own classes and personal family groups. Rather than buying and giving gifts, we give something away that is meaningful to us for some reason: because it has important memories attached, because we made it, etc. Plus, this works especially well because people usually share important memories with everyone present, which makes all the more impact.
Here's how it's done:
- SEND EACH PERSON a note saying not to bring a gift that they have bought
- INSTEAD, bring something MEANINGFUL that has been with you for quite some time or something that you have PERSONALLY made.
- Wrap it but don’t let anyone see the wrapping paper of anyone else’s gift. The way to do that is to bring your wrapped gift in a paper or plastic bag.
- Have a big box in one of the bedrooms and have each person “sneak” their gift (in the brown paper or plastic bag) into the box as soon as they arrive
- When it is time to open the gifts, the host brings the box of gifts out and puts them on a cloth in the center of the living room. Everyone sits around the gifts.
- The host begins the process by asking the oldest person to choose a gift first. This can be fun in and of itself.
- The oldest person (Person A) looks at each wrapped gift and then chooses a wrapped gift (without knowing whose gift it is).
- When they unwrap the gift, the person who brought the gift (person B) comes forward and sits with person A as they unwrap it.
- Person B now describes to person A and the rest of the group or family, why they chose this gift and what its meaning is for them.
- Then person B chooses a wrapped gift and the bringer of that gift comes forward to share the meaning of that gift for them. Continue until each person has selected a gift.
2. Do a CREATIVE gift swap
Instead of a physical gift that's been purchased at a store, each person brings something creative they want to share with the group.
It doesn't have to be something THEY created (a person who doesn't think themselves particularly creative may feel they're competing with the amazing artists or creators in the family), but extra points if it is. Some ideas:
- an original song, or a mixed CD
- a poem
- a dance
- a painting
- a photo - one they took themselves, or a print they purchased that is meaningful to them.
- anything else meaningful to share with the group
Begin with the eldest person and then each person younger than the one before has their turn to share theirs. People may make copies to leave with each other member of the group.
3. What about new years?
Inevitably, discussions at holiday parties in December will involve new year's and resolutions. This happens informally: but you can make a formal activity that makes this an inspiring part of your holiday festivities.
Here's how the activity works:
- Have each person bring their top 3 goals for the new year
- Write each one on a slip of paper and throw them into a hat or box
- Each person chooses a slip and reads aloud
- The group tries to guess who it belongs to
- Then, the person who claims it gets to choose the next goal (from the hat)
- Then, people can talk together and discuss how they might help each other meet their goals in the new year.
Also, a BIG thank you from The Wellness Institute!
Thank you for being part of the therapy community, and helping to heal your clients and your communities.
- This work has reached Kuwait, Taiwan, Denmark, South Africa, and as of 2015 Istanbul Turkey.
- Our graduates are in over 20 countries
- The Trim-Life Weight Release Program is offered at The Cleveland Clinic as well as by our providers in over 25 states.
- Countless thousands of people dealing with pain, suffering, anxiety, PTSD, or many other issues have made progress on moving past them and becoming whole and healthy again.