There’s just a few more sleeps before Christmas and many of you probably still have things on your Christmas to-do list. From shopping to baking to cards to wrapping, it’s a busy time. But there’s no shortage of articles on how to manage your holiday stress.

Stress? At what point did the holidays get so synonymous with stress? If it’s all about giving and getting the perfect (read expensive) gifts or preparing a Martha Stewart-esque tree, meal or homemade gift paper made from crushed reclaimed toilet rolls that are hand-painted and finished with a tasteful wax insignia, then no wonder you’re stressed.

Ironically, in our hearts we know that Christmas isn’t really about any of those things. It’s about bringing the spirit of giving, kindness, compassion, thoughtfulness, joy, peace and goodwill into your home and to your community. Look around you – there is magic and miracles if you take the time to see them.

In my little community of Pemberton, BC, the Gingerbread Project is one fine example of a Christmas celebration that invites people to get into the spirit, have some fun and help others. Founded and hosted by David MacKenzie at the Pemberton Valley Lodge, the event started last year and, with a little community encouragement, has grown leaps this year.

It’s this simple — local businesses and community members are invited to submit gingerbread house creations that are displayed throughout the Lodge lobby until a few days before Christmas. The entries are eventually auctioned off to folks that want to display their favourite creation at home for the rest of the holidays. Participants pay a $5 entry fee and/or donate food for the local Food Bank. In addition, there is a community business social and a “Photos with Santa” event that invite donations to the Food Bank. So the participant fees, event donations, auction revenue and food donations all benefit the Food Bank. And it gets better: our local Scotiabank matches all funds raised so the community doubles its donation to the Food Bank. How great is that?

The creations themselves are quickly becoming a local Christmas viewing tradition, because they are spectacular. You truly have to see them to believe the architectural wonders being erected from a cookie recipe. This year Mobilize Strategies entered a submission, and while it’s not the prettiest creation in the bunch, the general consensus is that it wins for being the funniest.

See, we have this dubious bit of history in Teeny Town. Over the past 15 years, the aforementioned Scotiabank has been smashed into by a car, straight through the exterior walls into the bank, on not one, but three — yes three —  separate occasions. So we built a very special “Pemberton Heritage Moment”. It was a laugh building it and it’s been even more fun knowing that other folks are getting a kick out of it, too. And it’s helping to raise money for the Food Bank.

Christmas in a small town or in an urban neighbourhood can be a whole let less stressful when we decide to minimize our consumerism and focus on the spirit of community that is enhanced by the spirit of Christmas. That’s where the real magic of the season happens. So find some of the holiday activities in your community, and go participate in the magic.

Click here to take a peek at some of the Gingerbread Project creations.

~ Maureen Douglas, Certified Professional Facilitator-IAF

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