Give With Your Heart

10594158-683x1024 The holidays are approaching for most of us. Have you ever noticed that sometimes the gifts that mean the most are the ones that reveal an emotional sensitivity by the giver? Over the years I have “dispensed” with Christmas by giving gifts of monetary value and minimal emotional impact. I am not proud of this and I honestly suspect that my irritation with the commercialization of the holidays is the reason. Yet as I look around my home, I can observe the items that I have chosen to hold on to. Little hand made pieces of art work, even from my 8 year old niece, Tessa. Gifts from the heart. Leave it to the children to bring us back to our senses.

Think about what these holidays mean to you. They are about family traditions and memories. When I permit myself to drift freely, the first memory that comes to mind is my sisters, nieces and nephews, my daughter all stretched out in my parents living room. We are watching movies, blankets and pillows all over the place. It is snowing outside, and the snow is deep and we don’t have to go or be anywhere. My other niece would make a nest under the Christmas tree and sleep there all night. Even close friends of the family were staying with us. My mother in the kitchen, already setting up the coming feast. She is gone now, these memories are precious to me.

So, this year will be different. My excuse has always been, “I am just too busy with work.” So I drift in, take what I need or want, and then drift out. In the past it has been easy to play this game. I was always working during the holidays, being in the restaurant industry. I even told myself this last year, and the year before, and the year before, despite the fact that I have been out of the THAT business for the past 5 years.

My sisters and I have a shared experience as children. We grew up as second generation Americans. My grandparents came from Slovenia and Croatia. During the holidays we would always be inundated with a particular ethnic delicacy. We never really liked it much as kids because it was not sweet enough. But, as an adult and following my culinary training, I took the opportunity to learn the recipe. Though I have taught my daughter the recipe, I am the true “keeper of the flame” when it comes to this tradition. Last year I did not bother. I was too busy. The truth is that it was just too much trouble. I have come to the realization that I am generous with my money but pretty stingy with my time.

The sweet bread is called POTI’CA (pronounced po-teet’-za). I always laugh now when I say the word because years ago I asked a Bulgarian woman if she knew what that was. She turned red and started to laugh. Apparently there is a similar word in Bulgarian that refers to a personal female body part. Anyway, this holiday season, I will take off two days just before Christmas to make the loaves. The work is tedious and requires a full day of focus. The dough is a raised yeast product that is rolled with a sweet ground walnut filling I will be turning my bathroom into a proof box, my kitchen into a bake shop.

I have been BUYING my way out of the spirit of Christmas for years now. This year I am buying my way back in — with my heart and my time and my effort. You understand, my sisters and I can not even smell this bread without instant visions of our childhood. With both parents gone, we are the only ones who will make this connection. My niece, who is embarking on an extremely successful fashion design career, once told me that she would go to more symphony concerts if she could afford it, will get a symphony gift certificate. I am so not good at this. I suppose my lesson here is that giving without my heart is not really giving at all. I get it.

15 thoughts on “Give With Your Heart

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  5. jolene

    In our family we celebrate Christmas by doing for others…We buy no gifts for each other but we are aware of the needs of others around us. One year at the laundry mat I noticed out the window a woman crying in her car…I knocked on her window and asked if she was ok…her car broke down, she was late for work and her cat had knocked the plug out of her refrigerator and all her food spoiled over night. I offered to give her a ride home and she accepted…once in the car I said “But first lets stop at the store and get you some groceries…you can have up to $100″…she was flabbergasted then I explained to her our Christmas custom and she gratefully accepted. That night at the dinner table I told the family what we got for Christmas that year and everyone smiled…

  6. Ann

    Yes, hand made ornaments made when my brother and I were in grade school hung on my parents tree every year. Our parents have been gone for a long time now, but the ornaments hang every year, still, on my tree. Memories of simpler times with all your family around you, a home filled with love.

  7. The Lovely Duckling

    Well said as always, Phillip!
    The things that are most precious in life are usually not material. When we do give material things, there is nothing better than a gift that comes straight from the heart. I would rather receive no gift at all than a thoughtless one. My favorite gifts are those given for no particular reason or those given to someone who is in need.
    With my daughter, I try to play down the holidays and the expectation of gifts. Instead I emphasize the need to give to others. She gets to pick out presents every year for children her own age who would otherwise have little. I hope that will be a gift to her when she is old enough to realize how she has the power to change the lives of others.
    Duck 🙂

  8. indigodanceIndigodance

    I give to my lovely friend my time and my heart – unfortunately for me, he has ripped it apart.
    I give back to my friend my time and my heart – I cannot nor will not let my pain keep us apart.
    I stand here with my wounds so open and hurt; his words were so cruel, un-trustworthy and curt.
    All I can do now is stand here and wait; that is all I can do, I stand here and wait.
    I wait because as Phillip contemplates, giving without my heart is not really giving at all.
    I love my friend and still give him my time and my heart. I do a lot of spiritual work in my own way, and empathy has been with me all my journey in life. My friend is very special to me – he gave me his heart – we beat as one, HE IS THE ONE !! – so at the moment all I can do is remember those special memories.
    Again, I offer my time and my heart ….while he contemplates what keeps us apart …… and I wait with love in my heart.

  9. rosalene

    Your posting is spot on the mark! – I am sorry to say there is no meaning of the True Christmas Spirit around. My parents were not able to go out an dbuy anything like the young people of today have.
    It was one main present (a doll, train set, book etc) a new Sunday outfit (with the old one becoming for everyday) some pencils, apple, chocolate. But remember the family meal together, Dad look smart even on Christmas day for the cutting of the Chicken, bought the day before, with his Christmas week wages and maybe a small bonus, all the shopping was done Christmas evening because they had to wait until he got this and he had three days off so he did not have to have money to travell back and fro work for those days!
    They say we are better off, I think maybe in some respects we are worst off, because not having the money to buy lavish things we had the “true meaning of a Family Life, making our ownn etertainment and memories.
    Thanks for brining these back to me.
    Hope you achieve your goal this year of “the True Christmas Spirit”.
    “The Music of Christmas is Laughter;
    The warmth of Christmas is Family & Friends:
    And the Spirit of Christmas is Love”.

  10. Psychic Maryanne Ext. 9146

    Fabulous and right on time article-as always.
    The one Christmas gift I have carried with me all over the country is a piece of lined notebook paper with a beautiful fall leaf taped to it—made for me by my nephew when he was in kindergarten and concerned that I had moved so far south that there wouldn’t be any fall leaves. It’s getting pretty dried out by now-he’s in college-but it’s clearly the most meaningful Christmas gift I have received.
    Yeast dough with ground walnut filling-takes me back. My brother and I are second generation Americans as well, with ancestors from Serbia and Croatia.
    Ext. 9146

  11. Miss Krystal ext. 9192

    Thank you for such a honest and sincere article. Awesome. I think we all have had holiday time challenges…. And I bet this will be a wonderful holiday season for anyone who counts their blessings. “It’s never too late!” My mother always says this. I agree with her. I feel it is a gift to give. Even if we bake cookies, make things with our hands, it’s the thought that counts! 🙂
    I wish everyone a wonderful holiday- end of the year season. Miss Krystal

  12. browneyes

    Yes Phillip, the commercial aspect of Christmas has almost ruined it for me. When I was a child, I got numerous gifts of course as I was the youngest and the only one left at home. But my fondest memories are of my mother baking for days before the holiday to prepare all of our favorite treats. Cakes, pies, cookies, candies, and of course the traditional feast of ham and turkey and all the trimmings. And unlike the childrens stockings these days being stuffed with more toys and DVD’s, mine was stuffed with apples and oranges, nuts of all kinds, hard candies, and peppermint sticks. I guess because we didnt have the fresh fruit routinely except the peaches and apricots that my mom grew herself. The house smelled so good during that time of year.
    My children and I have tried to get back to basics the last couple of years. We do buy a small gift of some sort for each other like a favorite movie or something but we get together as a family and decide on a family gift to ourselves. We all live together so it may be a new TV or something that we enjoy as a family. We have been talking about saving up one year to take a trip during the holidays. Spend that time together somewhere other than home so that we can enjoy some new experience together and have those memories forever. After all, Christmas to me is about enjoying family and friends and sharing love instead of material things. Those things fade away. The love between family members stays with you forever. As do the memories. Wonderful article and really makes you think. Thanks Phillip.

  13. Phillip# 9485

    OK here is a little story. When I was five years old, I was crying because I had no money to buy gifts for christmas. So my mother gave me a $5 bill to buy presents for my family. I was taken to the dime store and turned loose. I bought my mother a 25 cent rolling pin. It was functional, but it was about as long as a roll of pennies. I spent the rest on candy for myself. That famous rolling pin became an ornament on the Christmas tree every year since. That is 53 years folks. Now that my parents are gone, the rolling pin has been passed to my older sister’s tree, and I am certain it will eventually go to my daughter’s tree when I am gone. Who would have thought? The candy I bought is long forgotten, but the rolling pin lives on. LOL

  14. Fran

    Dear Phillip,
    How true….every word you said. I remember all the cute little crafts I made as a child to give to my grandparents. They kept every single one. As I got older (I’m talking 4th grade), I would save up my allowance (which was only $1 each week) so I could buy them and my parents something “special.” One gift in particular that I remember giving them was an orange walrus piggy bank. They had that thing on their buffet server FOREVER!
    This year for my birthday, my son wanted to get me the new Star Trek movie on DVD. Unfortunately, it’s not available yet. So instead, he wrote me a poem, a riddle really, about it, which had me practically rolling on the floor in stitches. I never laughed so hard. I will cherish that poem, handwritten on ugly loose-leaf paper, more than anything he could ever “buy” me.
    I used to love making ornaments as gifts. Cute little wooden eggs painted and crafted to look like Santa. I haven’t made one in several years. Too busy, I guess. I miss that, though. I enjoyed crafting something to give as a gift. But like you, I became complacent and started buying gift cards. It was so much easier than coming up with “the perfect gift.” I think I’ll break out my recipe cards and make some cookies this year. And I’ll have my girls help me, too. Wish I could send you a plate full.
    I want this year to be magickal again. Thank you Phillip, for reminding me that the Holidays are all about love from the heart.
    BIG HUG,

  15. Gina Rose ext.9500Gina Rose ext.9500

    Hi Phillip,
    Wonderful article…..I can relate to the handmade gifts from the heart. I was going thru old things in my attic and found several ” works of art ” my daughter made for me in grade school. One was made out of dofferent shapes of pasta and macaroni….( from 1st grade) Some out of clay and some were glazed pottery.
    My late Aunt was into baking cookies at Xmas…..all types of cookies !!!! We always looked forward to receiving tins of cookies ,
    ( usually cookie crumbs due to being shaken up rather badly in transit ), but they were delicious anyway !
    In my religion… is customary to handcraft gifts….as they are gifts from the heart….laced with love & magick.
    Happy Samhain, Phillip, my friend !
    Blessed Be )O(…..Gina Rose ext.9500


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