Giving Time over STUFF

Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s blow by in a hurried hustle. Even outside of the holidays, kids, teens, husbands, and wives are constantly on the go, on the phone, and operating frantically on the fly. While it’s ideal to slow down and savor the moment in the midst of holiday preparations, for some it’s just not possible; there’s shopping and cooking and traveling to do, final exams, Christmas cards to mail. Where is the chance to be together? So often holiday cheer becomes an afterthought when we take the stockings down. Where did the time go?

But what if the holidays were a little different this year? What if they were simpler? What if we spent Thanksgiving enjoying blessings and family? Advent relishing in preparation? Christmas morning together instead of off playing with new stuff alone? What I propose to combat the distractions during the holidays is that we pour more time and less cash into gifts for loved ones and friends. Of course, there’s the glee of opening wrapped packages Christmas morn – I’m looking forward to it myself – but more than possessions I’d like time with my family having fun. This year, I’m toying with giving experiences versus material possessions because there is no gift like furthering joy within our own family. Here are gift suggestions that will enhance the quality of time versus the quantity of stuff.

Spiritual gifts
There is nothing material about spiritual gifts, but they are out of this world! Did you know you could pay $5-$10 to have a Mass celebrated for someone? You can’t beat the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass when it comes to a prayer offered for any soul – whether part of the Church Militant or Suffering – and it’s as easy as calling your parish office to have it arranged; I’ll be giving my late father a Mass this year, knowing the gift will be *perfect* for him. Or you could buy Rosary beads for someone, but before you give them, pray a full round for your loved one – one Christmas I did this for my mom and for each Hail Mary in a decade, I chose a quality of hers to pray for (e.g. her career, her life as a mother, life as a wife, etc) and she loved it. Does your husband or wife need to get away? Call your diocese to learn of any upcoming retreats and pay for their attendance. Nothing restores a person like exclusive time with God. Spiritual gifts are just the best kind of present because “you only live once” and “you can’t take it with you.”

This one’s easy. Concert tickets, a gift card to the movies (Andrew and I are psyched to go see The Desolation of Smaug next month), or a made up “coupon” for snacks and favorite games at home. Books are ideal as well, especially for little ones who need grown-ups to read with them. The point with these (and the next section) is that the giver can participate just as much as the recipient. It’s all about time and experiences together.

For the gift of Activities, take it outside. Get your husband a gift certificate to go play paint ball with his buds. Get your wife a manicure with a girlfriend or a pair of earrings coupled with the promise of a night on the town for just the two of you. Daughters of any age would love a “Date with Dad,” and I’m willing to bet a mom would up her coolness if she watched a game with her son. My sons are very little and are at present obsessed with Hot Wheels and race tracks – while we could get them another car or two for their already abundant collection, what I really want to do is play with them, let them choose a car for me and race around the house. Oh they LOVE it and to them it demonstrates that I am interested and invested in them. Gifts of activities aren’t about STUFF and plastic, they’re about time. What does your family member like to do? Find out and make it happen for them and with them.

The blessing of giving experiences is that they’re conducive to living life more fully and cultivating more love and joy in your home; it’s a hard thing to come by in an age when we’re tethered to devices and distracted by busyness. Of course, everyone likes wrapping to tear open as much as the next giddy 6-year-old; so go ahead and buy a tangible gift, but tag it with the promise of time.



Original edition printed in the Catholic Connection, Dec. 2013 issue
Featured image from The Christmas Tree Book written and illustrated by Joe Kaufman, 1966


  1. Excellent advice, Katie!!!

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