Christmas is a wonderful time of the year. But far too often does the true spirit of Xmas gets overshadowed by the material needs inhabited by our consumerist society. This year, instead of gifting, I favour the art of giving. Give others your time, your energy, your good vibes and it will bring them more joy than any physical gift could ever do.
I have been a long-time advocate of the Brno’s Xmas markets. In my opinion (and I cannot speak for all the cities in the world), they are the most beautiful markets in Europe. The products are all local, authentic and rare. Where else can you find handmade soaps, beeswax candles and diaries all in one place? Also, the people who sell them are nowhere near any ordinary salesmen, they are often the real producers, the owners of the companies, the pilgrims attempting to secure their business. And together with the richly decorated stalls set around the stunning Christmas tree, they create the unique Christmas spirit that is impossible to replicate anywhere else in the world. Don’t want to sound snobby, but Czechs are one-of-a-kind, especially those in Moravia. We put the heart at the centre of everything we do and that makes us irreplaceable.
I couldn’t be more grateful to finally spent the whole Advent period in my home town and to have the chance to compare our local markets with those in Austria, Slovakia, Poland, France and the UK. I am confident to say that ours are the best! And why? Because here you can feel the real spirit of Christmas, the one that goes straight from the heart.
Even though I love the (predominantly) homemade produce at the markets and perceive it as a kind gesture to purchase something from the traders, I am resistant to shopping Xmas gifts - not only there but in general.
We live in the age of overconsumption and not having something we need became rarer than seeing a Santa’s sledge in the sky. And so, I turn my head away and refuse to shop more garbage nobody needs and support the corporate merchants in meeting their sales targets.
If you insist on giving a physical gift, and I strongly encourage you to look for a charitable activity instead, here are my top three recommendations...
1. Candle: this is something that comes in a number of alternatives, can be made sustainably and after burning out, the glass can be repurposed for storage in your household. Furthermore, that person will think of you every time the candle is lit and its scent lingers through your home.
2. Book: something that can be used and then passed onto someone else. My favourite tip for this year is Michelle Obama’s memoir ‘Becoming’. We can never have enough inspiring stories about the #girlbosses or supporting the local community. And if they are personally experienced and captured by the first lady, how could you possibly say no?
3. Donation: Forget about the old ways of sending money via a check to a kid you’ll never meet (and don’t even know if exists). Instead, focus on finding something that makes sense and has a direct impact on your life. Again, I recommend finding a local charity and signing up with a friend. But if you insist on something physical, then pick a booby top from loono.cz.
Your money funds future workshops and talks about cancer and cardiovascular disease prevention and comes with badges, stickers and a self-examination brochure. What a better way to celebrate the season of love than by saving a human life? Follow #prsakoule (#boobsandballs) for more details.
And that’s it. Enough has been materialist talk about Xmas. Now is time to sit down with your beloved ones and light up the candles on your Advent wreath. Or maybe cosy up in your bed with a good book, so you are ready to receive a new one this Xmas. Or maybe pull on your winter hat and head to the town to grab a cup of mulled wine and maybe help those in need on your way.
Whatever you do, remember to acknowledge the way you feel and be grateful for what you have - emotionally more than physically. Give thanks to the friends you have, the family that supports you, the freedom that allows you to do exactly what you want. Celebrate these last few days of the year and spend them in a good company - of others and yourself.
Have a lovely Christmas!