Happy Holidays: Experiences vs Stuff

Just like you, I know the importance of placing value on experiences vs stuff.  Just like you, I know how the adrenaline of acquiring a new object is only short lived.  Just like you, I know how quickly adaption becomes the enemy of happiness.

In our family, we spend a majority of our disposable income on experiences: On travel.  On dining out.  On once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.  

But when you have a 2 and 4-year-old and it is the holidays - nothing brings more joy than opening TOYS!

I grew up Jewish and always looked at Christmas as something magical.  It was this cultural phenomenon that didn’t include me and I hated feeling left out.  I loved the lights.  I loved the trees.  I loved the movies on TV.  I always thought everyone was in on something and there was nothing I wanted more than to be in on it too.  

When I married Steve we had a chance to raise our boys however we wanted and create our own version of the holidays. The first few years we traded off celebrating Hanukkah with my family and Christmas with his.  Then we started to travel over our week off and this year we spent the holidays here in Tokyo.  

With all of our Hanukah and Christmas decorations packed away in a Minnesota storage unit it was a raw chance to create something truly ours.  I bought a mini tree from IKEA for $9.99.  Anders and I went to a coffeeshop and drank hot cocoa while we made our own tree decorations.  We picked out sparkly star lights and some snowflakes from the 100 Yen store to hang in the window.  

It made me realize that for us, the holidays aren’t about this religion or that religion, it is about a celebration of WINTER.  A marking of one whole trip around the sun.  Time off from work to be together.  Food traditions and a chance for the whole world to be a bit magical.  Even here in Tokyo, where 1% of the population is Christian, the city radiates with holiday markets and the most beautiful illuminations.  

And as we create our own traditions, I so want to place value on experiences.  Steve and I never buy each other presents.  Gift giving simply isn’t our love language.  We both value living life to its absolute fullest and decide together to put our money towards amazing moments. Hello, Australia!

But for our boys, it is a bit different.  Living a life of experience is simply the way it is when you are the Bertling boys.  And let’s be honest - they don’t always love it.  Anders struggles a bit without downtime/routine and seeing another place where you have to sit still, not touch anything and talk in a whisper isn’t exactly fun for Chase. 

So when the holidays roll around, telling the boys we got them a trip to Australia, isn’t gonna cut it.  They want a Paw Patroller and a Batman Robot and you know what?  That’s ok. 

This year, we put out some grandma-baked cookies for Santa and Anders pulled some socks out of his drawer last minute cause he decided he needed stockings too.  They went to bed so excited for what morning was going to bring.  That night they asked lots of questions about Santa and I tried my best to answer them by asking back, “what do YOU think?”  I like to think of Santa as the spirit of giving.  We all can be Santa this time of year by giving and spreading joy.  In fact, we put our own spin on “Boxing Day” by going through our toys the day after Christmas and boxing up what we no longer need to give back to the world.  In a way, we become Santas too.

On Christmas morning, it was kinda like the movies.  The 7:00am wake-up call.  The way their eyes lit up when they saw the presents under the tree.  Their sequels of excitement when they opened their presents made my heart swell.  Then we all snuggled in to watch Christmas Vacation - which isn’t exactly appropriate for a 2 and a 4-year-old as it turns out, but that’s how we roll.

Our hope is as Anders and Chase get older the holidays won’t be all about getting presents, but a time for giving, for experiences and family.  But at this moment in time, it includes a battery operated kitten, a Ben 10 Heatblast Rocket Flyer, and Anders yelling “This is what I have always wanted!!!” And for me, that makes this a very happy holiday! 

Melissa BertlingComment