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The Difference Between Thanksgiving and Christmas (and how to change it)

November 29, 2010

Unfortunately, Black Friday is what we think of when Thanksgiving is over.

With Thanksgiving coming and going, we’ve been talking to a lot of friends and family recently.  As is common, the discussion at some point talks about holiday plans: what we’re eating for Thanksgiving and who we are eating it with.  And, as is natural with Thanksgiving being the official beginning of holiday marketing campaigns, it slowly creeps into the realm of Christmas.  But, there is a distinct difference in the tone and demeanor when talking about Thanksgiving and Christmas.

When we talk about Thanksgiving, it tends to be about the food and the company.  There is always one family member or friend that makes a special dish that you can’t wait to have.  (For us, it’s the sweet potato and marshmallow casserole from Bessie’s aunt)  Meeting on Thanksgiving tends to be an easy affair because there are no expectations apart from eating and conversation.  The focus is on perishable, non-physical gifts: the gift of a well cooked meal and the gift of good company.  They are simple things, but things we all look forward to and cherish.

When we talk about Christmas, though, it suddenly turns into the stress of shopping.  The thought of spending quality time with friends and family has been pushed to the back of our minds while we worry about what things we are going to buy each other.  On top of that, you have to think of things that others can buy you, which can be even harder.  It becomes a matter of choosing things you know are easy for others to buy instead of asking for things that are meaningful to you.  If you’re anything like me, you tend to pick things that are easy to shop for like DVDs or clothes.  They aren’t the things that you really want, but it’s easier to tell someone that you want the “Hangover” DVD than a romantic night out with your wife.

So, Christmas loses some of its meaning while we all get stressed out in the craze to buy and receive stuff.  No longer are we looking forward to the time spent with the people that we love, instead we fret about the kinds of things we are going to give them and receive from them.

This is part of the reason why we created WiseGifter.  We like giving to other people but we realized that it didn’t have the meaning that we wanted it to have.  We wanted to help people live out their dreams and do things that could make their lives have more substance.  While giving clothing and electronics made us feel good, we felt like we could do better.  And in order to do better, we had to move beyond physical gifts.

So, as you think about giving and receiving this holiday season, think about what gifts you can give that can have a positive influence on the lives of your friends and family.  Then think about how those people can help you live a better life.  Think past the marketing and consumerism and focus on the things you value.  I think you will find that the holiday gift-giving season will be much more meaningful and the stress will turn into joy.

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