As a child, I often would awaken in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve. I’d sneak downstairs and by the light of the Christmas tree, peek at the presents that had filled the corner of our living room. The promise and excitement bundled under our tree filled my heart to bursting.
It’s not that I was materialistic, though I suppose most of us are to some extent. To this day, the thought of a gift intended for me fills my heart, simply because someone has taken the time to think of me, considered what I might enjoy, and taken the time to shop for that item and wrap it. The more apt the gift, the more known and loved I feel.
For me, cost plays the smallest part to the meaningfulness of a great gift. What makes a gift truly great is the way the giver has chosen it. Have they remembered something I said in passing? Have they considered a problem I might have, and are offering a solution? Have they gotten to know me well enough to know my interests and dreams and found a gift that will support that passion?
Gary Chapman writes about gifts as a way people show and receive love in his book The 5 Love Languages. In it, in addition to gifts, Chapman also identifies four other ways people receive or show love: acts of service, words of affirmation, quality time and physical touch. For most people, we most naturally speak one or two of those “love languages,” while others can be more challenging for us to engage in.
Yet, what is also frequently true, those we love most may not share the same primary love languages. This presents a unique opportunity to go beyond our natural proclivity to demonstrate love to someone we care about in their love language of choice.
For example, my husband’s primary love language is physical touch, which happens to be the love language I’m least inclined towards. Understanding that has helped me to be intentional about regularly finding opportunities to regularly show him small gestures of physical affection.
Additionally, in moments when he’s speaking in his primary love language and not mine, I can remind myself to receive his outpouring of love the way I might if he were giving me a gift. When I’m inclined to buy him a generous gift, I remember that it will mean more to me than it will to him.
The holiday season is a perfect time to become fluent in the love languages of those we love the most, and to receive love and affection from those who care about us however it’s given.
For those in your life whose love language is gifts, give them meaningful, thoughtful gifts, rather than asking them what they want or buying them something generic.
For the people in your life whose love language is acts of service, surprise them with a meaningful action such as making them a meal, cleaning up after a holiday gathering, offering to babysit or fix something around their home.
For those you love someone whose love language is words of affirmation, consider writing a meaningful letter of appreciation, speaking kind and encouraging words to them in person, or sending them a message of love that they can revisit later, rather than simply sending an impersonal Christmas card.
For physical touch, find opportunities to demonstrate appropriate and regular affection with a hug, a snuggle or a squeeze on the arm to remind them how special they are to you during the holiday season.
If someone you love receives love through quality time, find ways to engage in meaningful conversation, come up with fun activities you can share together, create special memories together, and enter into holiday gatherings with a positive attitude and help to foster connection during those times.
You can find out your love language here using this free online test.