When my mother suggested that our family not give each other gifts this Christmas, I was somewhat aghast. I know the true spirit of the season is supposed to have something to do with goodwill towards men and blah, blah, blah, but the presents are the part that have always seemed the most important. You can take the candy canes and the reindeer, but please leave the presents. However, after letting the idea sit for about 10 seconds, I realized my holiday season would be a lot easier if I didn’t have to fret over what to buy my family members or brave the hoards of shoppers to obtain those things or spend money on the stuff in the first place. So I told her, “Well, it’s ok with me if it’s ok with everyone else,” though I really wished she’d floated the idea before I bought a book for my older brother off his Amazon wish list. My mom proposed the idea to my brothers and everyone was on board, which means there were no presents under the Christmas tree this year and it was a remarkably wonderful experience.
When I was a kid, Christmas presents were awesome because 1) I had no income and 2) even if I did, I had no way to transport myself to a store to buy things, and online shopping hadn’t been invented yet. So gifts were the only way I could acquire things I wanted. Birthday gifts, Christmas gifts, please-buy-me-this-She-Ra-doll-please-please-please gifts– they were all great. However, now that I’m an adult with my own income stream I find that if I want something, I just go out and buy it. Sure, I don’t get to unwrap anything other than the Amazon shrink wrap, and there’s no surprise about what’s inside since I already got the email receipt, but it’s nice to be able to get things for myself without being dependent on others. I can’t afford to buy every single thing I want, but I can afford what I need plus some luxuries on top of that, so I’m doing fine.
Everyone in my immediate family has a steady income right now, so none of us are in serious need of gifts to get by. And no one has come across a vast windfall of money that might make them feel like being more generous with gifts this year. As much as I love everyone in my family, I can’t say I know what to get them unless they make it easy for me, like by creating an Amazon wish list. When I think back over the years, I can’t exactly remember who got me what the past few Christmases anyway. There are a few things that stand out. One year my little brother got me a GPS, which is something I would never have thought to buy for myself, but I’ve used countless times to prevent getting lost. My older brother got me the video game Journey which I’d never heard of, but was one of the best games I’ve ever played. And my mom knows me so well she once bought me a sweater in the same style but different color than I’d already bought myself.
But other than these outliers, it seems like Christmas gift giving is a stressful way to get things you may or may not want by paying for things other people may or may not want. Sure, it’s a great feeling when you get someone something they really adore or didn’t even know they would adore, but it also sucks when you feel kinda lame for buying everyone gift cards with a bag of holiday M&M’s attached because you had no clue what else to get them. Then there’s that horrible, awkward, disappointed feeling you get when you receive something you don’t want or sense that you’ve given someone something they don’t want.
When I went to a doctor’s appointment in December, the nurse taking my blood pressure asked me if I was done with my Christmas shopping yet and I said yes quite happily even though I hadn’t bought anything except for that book on my brother’s Amazon wish list. I didn’t even bother to explain my situation to her because I felt bad that she still had to deal with that whole rigmarole. Once Christmas Day came, I didn’t even miss the ritual of opening Christmas presents in a circle, one by one. When I was with my family I got to concentrate on being with them instead of worrying over the gift situation. So yes, it still felt like Christmas even without the gifts. I guess those Whos down in Whoville were on to something.
The best gift that Christmas was not having to deal with the stress of acquiring gifts. I’m glad my mom came up with the idea and that everyone else was cool with it. I know that not all families would be willing to opt out of Christmas gift giving, but hopefully we’ll make this an annual thing. Who needs presents when the cats fill up the space under the tree quite nicely on their own?