The Christmas season is a time of joy and anticipation. For weeks the Christmas Spirit grows with every decoration hung, carol sung and sweet treat consumed. The ultimate height of anticipation, especially for children is drafting a wish list for Santa.

I vividly remember the anticipation that came each year of my childhood with the arrival of the JC Penny “Wish Book.” My brother and I spent hours examining every page and letting our imaginations run wild with just how cool and glamourous our lives would be with each toy. By the time we were done that poor book was marked and highlighted with so many circles even Santa couldn’t figure out what we wanted.

There is a sad nostalgia for me in knowing “Wish Books” have faded away. Children today really don’t understand what they are missing.

That is one of the beautiful things about children, they can manifest anticipation, imagination and joy just about everywhere they look. It rarely matters the cost of quality of the gift, in their mind the cheapest items can be great treasures and expensive gifts may not be any better at holding attention any longer. Children are quick to joy, imagination and seeing the possibility in all things.  

At some point though our ideas about gifts change. Teenage desires are fueled by the coolest brands and newest electronics, but as most of the world can’t really understand them you are almost better giving them a gift card. In our early adult years, our desires move to more practical things motivated by the gaps in our lives left by the new world of adulting. I remember when I was first out of college asking for exciting things like new tires for my car, a vacuum cleaner and a whole list of kitchen appliances.

At some point in the last decade, I reached the point where I have everything I need to be happy. Gifts stopped being a source of anticipation, and a wish list became more a chore than a dream. My anticipation at the holidays has shifted from dreaming about what I want to give.

Giving has become a source of great joy for me. My anticipation builds each year while I search and puzzle over gifts that will make my loved ones light up with joy. It isn’t always easy, we all have that one person who wants things that are completely unrealistic like a time-travel machine, world peace or a new sports car.

The best gifts are rarely expensive or trendy, they are usually practical and may seem a bit strange to anyone but the recipient. However, they show your loved ones how much you listen to them and want them to be happy. Great gifts feel so good because it is like being told, “I like you exactly as you are.”

None of the items on my Christmas list will make or break my holiday season. I make my list so my loved ones can have the joy of getting me something that shows their love, even though I really only care about spending time together.

As you finish your holiday shopping this year don’t stress over the perfect gift, remember it really doesn’t matter if you buy them a smart phone, muck boots or a nice dinner together. The true joy of the season will come from participating in traditions, making memories and knowing how blessed we are to be together with people we love.