'Tis the season … for sharing! Thanksgiving in the U.S. is less than a week away, which means Hanukkah, Christmas, and other holy days aren't far behind. Coming together with loved ones, exchanging gifts, being kind to others … all of these holiday-related activities are brilliantly shareable, even if you have to forge your own connections.
Here are some of our best How to Share guides to help you through it all:
Make Your Holiday a Shared Affair
To get you started on your way toward a shareable holiday season, this piece is a great primer with an eye on the various limitations that we all face, economic and otherwise: “For many, the holidays could be more accurately described as hassledays. People complain of busy schedules and frazzled nerves. We often speed up rather than slow down and end up feeling more isolated and stressed out, buried under shopping and wrapping and planning. And buried under stuff.”
Diving into more specifics, The Shareable Feast offers a basic blueprint for bringing people together with food: “Well, you could say it’s not about the food – but that would probably be a lie. The cooking group, now affectionately known as “Gourmet Dinner Night,” started kind of by accident. … What we realized was that a few of us really liked cooking, and more importantly, really loved spending a few rare, unhurried hours together.”
The table is set for a shared Thanksgiving dinner. Photo credit: Henner Zeller. Used under Creative Commons license.
If you don't have a few folks who really like doing all the cooking, a potluck dinner is another wonderful way to gather a group for a shared meal. You bring one dish and get to grub on a bunch of others in return. Author Stephanie Smith observes, “Why a potluck? The potluck is an iconic community gathering experience that symbolically reinforces the idea of sharing, as each guest brings food to share with the group. And anyway, potlucks are fun!”
Say you're new in town or, maybe, just feeling a bit more adventurous this holiday season and want to meet new people, hosting a stranger dinner is a fantastic ice breaker. As long as you are plugged into some sort of community base, the dinner can take on a life of its own by following the old Faberge shampoo adage, “I told two friends and they told two friends and …” As advised in the article, “Depending on your comfort level, there are different ways to do this. For the first stranger dinners, I found strangers by giving invitations to friends and asking them to invite people they knew. If you go this route, make sure you leave plenty of time for invitation delivery and for people to RSVP. This is probably the safest way to organize a stranger dinner, since your friends will have vouched for each guest that attends. If you want to start a dinner series, you can ask the guests to invite the next round of strangers. In this way, the dinner becomes a kind of chain letter.”
Once we get past Thanksgiving, we're immediately thrown into the Christmas consumerism cauldron. Despite the common wisdom, there are ways to “just say no.” Here, Neal Gorenflo explains the freedom of forgoing purchases in favor of donations: “I remember the relief of not having to go holiday shopping. My girlfriend Andrea (now wife) did a donation exchange with her family, too.This freed us both for the holidays. We spent the time relaxing. We caught up on sleep. We went to a Japanese steam bath. We read. We watched movies. We cooked. We went on dates. We made social calls. And we reflected on the past and upcoming year. Our new holiday tradition freed up time needed to close the year in a restorative and reverent way.”
A gently loved toy train set could be passed on to another kid to love. Photo credit: Wojciech Kulicki. Used under Creative Commons license.
How to Throw a Toy Exchange
If you have kids who won't easily be appeased by a charitable donation, you can still stay out of the stores by exchanging toys with other parents. As Dawn Friedman notes, “We do a lot of our holiday shopping at the thrift store where deals are to be had; our kids aren't bothered by getting a puzzle in a box fortified with masking tape or a new dress with some other kid's name marked on the label. I figured we weren't the only frugal family out there who wouldn't mind shoring up the holidays with someone else's cast-offs.”
In the end, what matters most during the holidays – and every day – is living our lives filled with good intentions and gratitude for the shared experience that is life here on Earth. Every little step we take beyond that only serves to enrich that experience all the more.