By Adrienne Harvitz
This Hannukah, when I got to wrapping gifts for my kids, a sort of sinking feeling settled into chest when I reflected on what I was teaching and feeding them through the process of honoring a sacred ceremony of gratitude and reverence with consumerism, AKA "presents."
The receiving of objects feeds an egoic entity — a little green-eyed gremlin — that lives deep within the belly of every child. The gremlin has with an insatiable appetite for ownership, stuff and covetousness, and grows hungrier and more snarly, shouting words like "mine!" and "don't touch my stuff!" and "mom, can't I open another one?" to family members and siblings with more vigor and chutzpah per every present opened.
This is the process whereby the giving of presents takes precedence over the act of being present and defeats the true goal of holiday season: to share love, gratitude, joy, story, and meaning with our families. So this year, when I got that feeling that I was feeding the green-eyed gremlin, I stopped, took a breath, and asked myself what I really wanted to feed and how to do so. I realized I wanted to feed my children positive beliefs about themselves, and the intention of love and appreciation for life that was behind each gift I bought for them. When I imagined them playing with or using each gift I bought them, I saw in my mind a vision of them sparkling with joy, or shining the light of their unique talents, abilities, and delights out into the world. So I decided to give my children the gift of meaning and conscious words with their gifts, writing on the plain foil and recycled newspaper wrapping paper messages to them about just how I love them, wishes, and dreams I have for them, how I hoped they would enjoy their gift or use it to share their inner gifts and joy with the world, or some positive affirmation about them each as an individual.
In the end, most of my words ended up in the recycling, but my son did pin up one of the wrapping paper messages on his wall, and I know that they heard the words from their mama's heart, and not just the sound of shredding gift-wrap echoing in their minds after the candles burned down each night of Hannukah.