December is supposed to be a season of “giving” yet it’s become more a season of greed, competition and expectations. It’s geared towards those who have money, as the seemingly best presents are the ones you buy and spend the most money on. What happened to sentimental gifts? I don’t care if that labels that person as “cheap” - those gifts are more expensive as they require more thought. I’d much rather receive a carefully crafted gift, whether it be a letter from a friend recalling old memories and expressing their gratitude for me or a playlist of songs. I can hang up those letters on my wall and cherish them for as long as they last; the songs then remind me of that person and of the occasion with which they were shared.

That’s not to say a pair of earrings or bought gift isn’t appreciated - I appreciate those as well! But if a getting a gift for me causes stress for the giving side, I’d rather relieve that person of stress. There shouldn’t be a time limit on presents or a scale that marks a gift as “good” or “bad”; unexpected gifts are the best because they are usually the most thoughtful. When you see a gift and it immediately reminds you of someone in your life, you shouldn’t be discouraged from buying said gift just because there's no special occasion; just buy it and give it to them!

(Elephants may seem random - and they are for the holiday season but that’s why I chose them. I appreciate that unlike most holiday pictures, there seem to be no expectations here. The left elephant isn’t extending his trunk as if expecting a gift, and the right side is giving a simple and unwrapped gift.)

Expectations exist not only with gifts but also in terms of relationships. The holiday season is a time to be spent with loved ones - family, friends and significant others. We must not take these people for granted; we must also remember that not every one of these categories exist in people’s lives. While I am very fortunate to have a very loving and welcoming family, that is not true of all people. Could you imagine dreading going home for Christmas because of family troubles? It would be even more difficult watching other families spend time together. Also, can we just discuss how holidays, including New Year's, so greatly emphasize couples? Constantly seeing couples on t.v. cuddling together and kissing prompts those annoying questions of “are you seeing anyone?” around this time of year. You rarely hear these questions being asked around Easter, or the Fourth of July (which, to be fair, aren’t as family-oriented). My suggestion to you? Focus on enjoying this holiday season with whomever and with whatever makes you happiest; keep it simple and joyous, as it's meant to be.