Sunday, December 4, 2016

Eat To Live & Live To Give

Now that I have cable again (uggh!) I've been bombarded with cheery commercials all promising unparalleled holiday joy. As a wise woman once sang, “I am a material girl” and it’s painfully obvious that I am “living in a material world”.

Every year we spend billions “making merry”. As a culture we tend to overdose on materialism. I think it's okay to enjoy the finer things in life, but in moderation. After all, what are we working for if not to be happy, enjoying food and gifts with our loved ones? 

With that being said, I still empathize with those that have grown disenchanted by the holidays, those that look around and see selfish, instant gratification-obsessed, unhappy people. So while I think nothing wrong with the enjoyment of giving and getting the material things in life, it’s no secret that for many people, the holidays have become the least wonderful time of the year.

How did this happen? And more importantly, how can we fix it?

I have a theory that somewhere along the line we became fixated on the object and forgot the reason for it. I don’t know how this happened, but I have a feeling all the commercials and their phony promises didn’t help.

Holidays like Christmas became a chore, a hassle, a box to be checked off of our “to-do” list. We became so obsessed with obtaining the “perfect” gift that we forgot how lucky we are to have people to give gifts to in the first place. And we forgot how much fun it can be to create a gift that is both generous and extremely thoughtful.

An object has no happiness in and of itself, but a gift is different. I remember being a child and looking forward to Christmas all year long. I didn’t know it then, but it wasn’t the object that made me giddy with anticipation, it was the act of indulgence with all my senses and all my family. I saw the wrapping paper presented so beautifully, the Christmas tree we had all spent time decorating. I heard the music that made me feel alive, and the laughter of people who were happy to be together. Let's not forgot the tastes of my favorite holiday treats: shrimp cocktail and homemade ambrosia.

Gurpreet celebrating his birthday with family
An object alone could never accomplish such a feat. A gift, however, is a work of art entwined with all the senses; it's something we begin to enjoy long before it's ever unwrapped. If we forget this and we fail to enjoy the process, to anticipate the happiness we have the power to create, then we have stripped ourselves of our own joy.

I don’t mean to say that we can’t buy something nice from the store and be happy with that, but we need not be fixated on what we "need to" buy to the extent that we become stressed in our pursuit. Making gifts by hand is one way to alleviate this stress and really be mindful of the holiday spirit. When we take time (over money) to create, as is the case with cooking, we are actually making more than a gift, we're making a space to feel connection and love, to get excited about what we’re doing and who we’re doing it for. We are truly making merry.

Grandma Gayle & Ms. Muro in the kitchen last Xmas

I wrote this entry with the intention of discussing how to make food for holiday gifts, but a philosophical meditation into the nature of joy has emerged instead. After reading my philosophy, you might have guessed that this year I plan on giving the gift of love and generosity in the form of tasty treats, to everyone I can. 

I would like to share the process here and reveal how fun and festive gift giving can be. Whether you take some time to do the same, shop at the store, or order your gifts online, I hope you (re)discover the same joy this holiday season.