Alternative Ways to Celebrate the Holidays

Posted by Kristin Beale in Life After Paralysis on December 13, 2021 # Lifestyle

Kristin and her husbandI’ve been thinking about Christmas presents since October: thinking about them, stressing over them, whatever you want to call it. I’ve had a lot of significant [and expensive] milestones this year too, which only means I don’t have the financial freedom for elaborate gifts that I normally do. Mine is not a serious problem, I realize, but it’s enough of one for me to start stressing about it three months in advance. Apparently.

The holidays, of course, are about way more than the quality of the gift. I realize that, especially this year, when I can’t give everyone in my family a new puppy or a piece of expensive technology. One of my favorite things about the holidays, though, is picking out personalized and special gifts for my loved ones. This year I’m just on a budget.

So, I put my head into the gifts I can make, things I can do, or what I can offer that’ll be as good as, or at least close to, a bought gift. I’m not saying you should give your best friend a doily and your parents a pot of chili, but here are a few to jog your mind:

  1. Do something for someone else. When I was living with my parents out of college, I found a $200 Visa gift card on my windshield – no note, no signature, nothing. It was completely anonymous, and one of the most generous presents that was given to me by whom, I still don’t know. With my found money, I sponsored a stranger girl’s back to school shopping, and lemme tell ya: it felt good to give back. The point here is not to spend a lot of money, but to do something that will make someone else’s holiday bright. In my experience, the satisfaction that comes with doing for someone else far exceeded the satisfaction of buying myself clothes or a new set of pens
  2. Spend time on yourself. I’m not saying to become self-absorbed, but rather to prioritize yourself in the way of working on your shortcomings. I’m also not saying to approach your mother and say, “for your Christmas present, I make a routine of exercising three times per week and eating right!” Improving yourself is a more indirect way to gift the people around you; the better of a person you are, the better you can show up for others.
  3. Reach out. To know someone is thinking about and cares enough to ask after me means way more than a stocking full of Christmas socks. My year-round advice is to call your grandparents (and/or parents) at least once weekly, but especially during the holidays. These can be lonely times for a lot of people, and a phone call is an easy way to be there.
  4. Listen. Listen to the opinions of your friends, to the wisdom of the people around you, to the needs of your older family members, or to Christmas music. Everyone wants to be heard and, even if you don’t agree with anything they’re saying, it’ll mean a lot for you to listen. Again, don’t tell your mother, “For Christmas, I’ll listen to your advice.” Think of this as something to supplement your gift. And about Christmas music – just turn it on. You only have to do it once a year.
  5. Make something. This is a fun one for me, Ms. DIY, but a handmade gift doesn’t necessarily require talent. For a lot of us, thank God that it’s the effort that means the most. Draw a picture; bake a pie; push some clay around and let it dry; or sing into a recorder. I was in the hospital during the Christmas season when I was in the hospital, so I made all gifts to my family in Recreational Therapy. You can imagine: they were pitiful. In a cute, “Kristin-tried-her-best” kind of way, though, so it went over well. Regardless of how much my gifts were used, they were appreciated and I had fun making them. Find something you enjoy doing, and make a gift of it!

I’m trying to make this holiday about something other than gifts because, honestly, that gets old and it feels so unimportant. Most of the gifts we buy only last a couple of months until they stop working, become outdated, and/or require an expensive upgrade.

My solution: go the cheaper route, and give the gift of your effort. Or, at least, throw it in to supplement. I’ve come to grips with not being able to buy everyone in my family a personalized t-shirt with their faces on it, but that’s okay. Also, I did that last year.

Kristin Beale is a native of Richmond, Virginia. She is the author of two books, Greater Things and A Million Suns, and a comic book, Date Me. Check them out and read an excerpt at Her comics can be found on Instagram @Greater.Things.Comics.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.