Christmas/Liturgical Seasons/My Faith Five Christmas Gifts That Don’t Come In Boxes by Jay Martin Temperatures are going down, lights and trees are going up, and that one Mariah Carey song is all over the radio. All of these things can only mean one thing: Christmas is almost here! This holiday season, you can pretty much count on a couple of things: Elf will be on TV about 75% of the day, you’ll see an ugly Christmas sweater with Santa dabbing on it, and people will spend a whole lot of money buying gifts for friends and family. The average American will spend $426 and buy about 14 presents this Christmas season according to a study by Deloitte. That’s a whole lot of “Jesus Saves” coin banks and Testamints! But if that statistic about Christmas gift giving doesn’t blow your mind, listen to this one: a recent survey conducted by Cornell University showed a continuing trend of more people preferring experiential gifts nowadays over material gifts. Having vs. Doing Think of it this way: would you prefer the latest album of your favorite band, or tickets to see them in concert? A new Call of Duty video game or a trip to your local arcade & laser tag arena? A nice painting, or a group party at one of those artsy painting places where everyone tries to draw a sunset? Don’t get me wrong, material gifts can be great, but like all things on earth, they eventually lose their value and we get tired of them. Experiential gifts meanwhile leave long-lasting memories that actually gain in value over time, and you’re more likely to bond with the gift-giver and connect with other people. If you’re like me though, you might not be able to afford big experiential gifts like tickets for your sibling’s favorite singer (have you seen the ticket prices for Carly Rae Jepsen’s tour?! Outrageous!). And we’re certainly not saying you shouldn’t give any material gifts this year either (Santa’s helpers would certainly get depressed, and have low elf esteem). Instead, consider giving a few gifts this year that don’t come in boxes or have a price tag, but are still filled with incredible worth and that people will remember long after they experience them. Presence One of the biggest presents you could give your family this Christmas might simply be your full presence and giving your undivided attention to them. There are so many things fighting for our attention nowadays, so maybe this involves leaving your phone in your room or staying away from other distractions and technology. Regardless of what it takes, simply ‘being where your feet are’ and engaging those around you is invaluable. The holidays are a great opportunity for families to spend time together, and while it can be strenuous at times and tempting to have Twitter or Instagram close by to distract you, it’s worth the extra effort to be all-in. This is a gift that won’t have a bow on it, but chances are your parents will value it beyond measure. Service Another gift you won’t find on shelves, acts of service are great ways to show your friends and family you love them. It doesn’t necessarily have to be anything extravagant or over-the-top; the main thing is simply putting others before yourself. Philippians 2:4 reminds us to be “not looking to your own interests but to the interests of the others.” Help your parents out with Christmas dinner by offering to run to the store for them or helping out in the kitchen. If a sibling has a big school project or exam they’re studying for over Christmas break, give them a hand. Serving those outside of your family is a great gift too, such as doing yard work for an elderly neighbor or serving at a local soup kitchen. There are plenty of different ways you can serve others this Christmas, and the gift of your time and effort is always appreciated (unlike most gifts of socks). Forgiveness Forgiveness is a beautiful, heartfelt Christmas gift, and it even comes with free shipping. Whether it was words that were said, decisions that were made or any differences whatsoever, Christmas is a great opportunity to make amends and forgive others for ways they might have hurt or offended you. Forgiveness can be a tough gift to give, especially for deep wounds from the past. It can also be tough to have to ask for it yourself, but forgiving others is a crucial step in healing those wounds as you prepare the turn the page to the new year. Step up to the plate this year and give a gift that will never lose its value, and that the world needs a lot more of. Gratitude When was the last time you really let your family or friends know how much you appreciated them? If it’s been awhile, consider giving the gift of gratitude this Christmas. We have so much to be grateful for during Christmas, in both the big things and the small things, and especially in those we get to share the holidays with. Write your best friend a list of ten reasons why you’re grateful for them. Leave some chocolate and a note in your mailbox for your friendly neighborhood mailman. Let the grocery store cashier know that they are appreciated. Small acts of gratitude go a very long way, as knowing that you’re appreciated by others is a gift that no amount of money can be. Faith Last but not least, the gift of your faith is something that was made to be shared with others, and what better time than Christmas! Ask your loved ones how you can pray for them, and when they give you their intentions, instead of saying, “Okay, I’ll pray for you!” and walking away, instead ask them, “Ok cool, can we pray right now?” and go for it! That prayer experience is much more personal and powerful when shared. Other ways to give this gift can be going to confession as a family, making a rosary for someone, or simply being open to sharing with people with different faiths what you believe, and listening to them too with compassion. It can seem daunting to discuss the Catholic faith, especially if some family members or friends don’t share your beliefs, but this is so important now more than ever. 1 Peter 3:15 tells us to “always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.” Christmas is a great time of hope and faith, and these are gifts that are at the top of every person’s life wish list. An Extra-Merry Christmas If you want to make the most of the Christmas season and give gifts that aren’t collecting dust by February, really consider one of these five gifts that don’t come in a box. Not only are they incredibly affordable in terms of Christmas spending, more importantly they’re personal, heartfelt and all revolve around love. Christmas isn’t about what’s wrapped under the tree, it’s about gifts of self and acts of love that reflect the gift and love we received when Jesus Himself arrived on Christmas – the greatest gift of all.