Don’t get me wrong, I’m no scrooge, but I don’t get into the Christmas spirit because of gifts. Let’s be honest: there are very few people on this planet that actually enjoy being stuck in a mall, rushing around for gifts that mean very little, but cost quite a lot. That is not what the holidays are about.
Most people love the holidays because they tend to bring people together. Families playing football in the back yard after a turkey feast; grandparents watching Christmas Vacation with their grandchildren; decorating the Christmas tree and remembering just how each ornament came about. These are the things that make the holidays special.
Despite this knowledge being fairly widespread, my family has a really hard time with the thought of having a giftless Christmas. This is a yearly source of frustration for me. Every year, I express my desire to have a quiet family gathering rather than a big gift giving ordeal. Every year, my family agrees, and then forgets about the agreement as soon as they hit the malls.
Their hearts are in the right place, but it’s very frustrating nonetheless. I’ve finally figured out that it’s not about them wanting to spend time and money in malls; it’s about them wanting to give something and share something with one another. Being bound to tradition, and having spent Christmas being surprised and surprising others for decades doesn’t help my cause. So I’ve brainstormed some ways that we can avoid the malls, while keep the giving spirit alive and well:
Everybody loves food, especially food that they don’t have to cook. Instead of just making candied nuts and putting them in mason jars (what is with the food in mason jars obsession?), set something up with your family where you make dishes that you know they love, and new ones that you think they’ll enjoy.
Giving your family members gifts of food helps them save time (they won’t have to cook for a few nights) and can be very personal, as each person has different tastes and preferences.
Give an Experience
Giving the gift of an experience is still gift giving, but it’s much more enriching for both the giver and receiver. Propose to your family that you give one another experiences for the holidays – ie movie or concert tickets, dinner gift cards, wine tours, or tickets to events.
If you give everyone tickets for the same events, it’s even better, because then you’ll be able to spend time together at the event, too.
If you actually sit down and total up all of the costs associated with Christmas, including the gifts, the extra gas, the alcohol and food, and the cost of hosting guests, you’ll find that you probably could have gone on a vacation with the sum.
Agreeing with your family to go on a vacation (even a short weekend vacation) instead of giving gifts and having a formal get together at home is a great use of your time and money. You’re still spending the holidays with your family, but you don’t have to stress about what to buy one another.
The One-Gift Rule
Not all families are willing to move themselves away from the tradition of giving items as gifts for Christmas, and that’s okay. Despite Christmas shopping being a stressor, it’s also deeply ingrained in our culture, and can bring some people a lot of joy.
If this is the case for your family, setting a one-gift rule can save money and time. Agreeing to all get one another only one gift – or to just do stockings – can also channel a lot of creativity and thought into that one gift.
Have you ever proposed an alternative to traditional gift giving for the holidays to your family?