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I love the holidays. I love reflecting on what the season is meant to be about, celebrating with family and friends, and evolving the traditions from my husband’s and my own childhood for our family of four.

Decorating the tree and our home together, driving around to look at holiday lights in our pajamas with mugs of hot chocolate or coffee, being at home Christmas morning to experience the magic of Santa with our young daughters — these are the moments I keep in mind when the craziness of the season starts to kick in.

Like clockwork, I inevitably feel the pressure of the holidays begin to build with the flip of the calendar to December. And despite concerted efforts to simplify, I still get caught up in the mayhem to a certain degree.

Much of it is self-induced. Do I really need to bake four kinds of holiday treats? Nope. But I often do because it reminds me of baking with my grandmas. Are holiday cards necessary? Probably not, but I send them because I so enjoy receiving them in return.

But then there’s the convention of gift giving — my least favorite part of the season. Other than for my kids, I’m pretty bad at shopping for other people. I don’t shop ahead of time, and I don’t see things and think, “My husband would love that,” or “That’s perfect for my mom.” Too often, I put shopping off until the week or two before Christmas, and then I scramble.

In place of meaningful (yet desired), personal (yet practical) presents, I often end up with random selections that leave the recipients scratching their heads in wonder. Or with yet another pair of wool socks.

I’ve been thinking about my gift-giving dread a lot lately. I’ve realized that my issue likely stems from the fact that receiving gifts is not personally important to me.

It’s not that I’m not grateful for the generosity of those who give thoughtful gifts to me; it’s just not my primary love language, as therapist Gary Chapman, PhD, would say.

In his book The 5 Love Languages, Chapman identifies the five most common ways we tend to give and receive love: words of affirmation (to be verbally acknowledged); quality time (to enjoy companionship); receiving gifts (to be given tokens of love); acts of service (to have others do tasks for us); and physical touch (to be in contact via the body).

When I retook the love-languages quiz recently, receiving gifts was last on my list, while quality time was at the top. So it makes sense that I have some resistance to this: I’d rather be connecting with others through shared experiences. Still, that doesn’t excuse me from understanding how those on my list give and receive love best.

So this year, I’m going to try gift giving based on the love languages of my family and friends. It will take some work to figure out what each person’s dominant one is, but my hope is it will create more meaning in whatever the presents — physical or conceptual — end up being. It might also brighten my spirits about this particular holiday tradition.

The season, after all, is about joy, and so much of that comes from how we give and receive with the most important people in our lives. (If you’re interested in learning more about the love languages, check out “The Five Love Languages“.)

Presents or not, the team at Experience Life wishes you and yours a healthy, happy holiday!

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