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?
My family stopped doing this a number of years ago and it was a godsend. I still give gifts or cash to my nephews, but the adults don’t exchange presents. Like you said, we have the resources to buy stuff for ourselves all year long if we so choose.
For the last few years, my family has cut down the gifts to just one homemade one that we choose in an exchange and it’s awesome. No stress about what to get my brother-in-laws, no crappy filler gifts, and no need to feel guilty about getting rid of the present 5 years later (I don’t need 7 spatulas, but they were all gifts…). Although I still need to find stuff for my husband who is over-the-top about gift giving and still buys himself video game consoles in November.
We have children in the family under 10 years of age (two of them my own) so obviously we all get them presents, but even aside from that we like exchanging gifts. I don’t generally find the shopping a burden, I enjoy it. And I mostly like the gifts I get, too, a mix of what I wanted and what I would never have thought of but ended up liking (like your GPS example). So we won’t be stopping presents any time soon. Or ever.
Admittedly I don’t get presents for my extended family (my cousins, who I only see at Christmas and weddings) any more, and on my husband’s side the extended family do a Kris Kringle where you draw a name and only buy for that person, and they post a list of suggestions so that is pretty easy.
Hmm, being on a perennial diet means the Christmas season can’t be about the food. I am not religious so it isn’t about Christ. Love my family but I see them all the time anyway, the ones I want to see. Please don’t take away my present-opening orgy! It’s all I have!
My family is Jewish, and gifts at Chanukah were never the big deal they were at Christmas. We did gifts when we were growing up, but stopped years ago, other than maybe a “token” gift such as a box of candy, or coupon for dinner out. It definitely does make the holidays less stressful AND more sociable. And if any of us does need something, we wait for the after-Christmas sales!
We stopped the gift wars except for presents to the under-15 crowd when my brothers and I were teenagers, on our suggestion. We had everything we needed, we worked to get what we really wanted, and it was such a hassle to find the one scarf our grandma didn’t have in her collection yet that we just begged to not get or give gifts.
The only one who objected was my grandma. The rest quite happily went along.
But then, Christmas never was a big deal for us. My parents and grandparents are all atheists, the extended family is from all walks of faith and non-faith, and we’d all much rather party and eat all the food from all over the world everyone brought for the holidays than think about anything else :). That hasn’t changed.
What did you do with the book?
@Kim – I ended up wrapping it and giving it to him anyway. He sent me something off my Amazon wish list a week later, so we’re square 🙂
Before I moved in with him, I made my boyfriend agree not to give presents for major holidays. Instead, we use them as excuses to go to higher-end restaurants than we normally would, or take trips, or otherwise do fun things. I do usually put together a Christmas stocking with little snacks and treats, and if there are things we have been wanting we will sometimes go out and get them together, but knowing that we don’t have to go buy Stuff several times a year is really stress-reducing! Definitely going to keep it up should we end up having kids.
Yup, I say gifts are for the 25 and under set. The idea is that before 18, you probably don’t have income or regular access to shopping, and in college and early adulthood you’re barely making ends meet. Why is it that every social occasion nowadays seems to require a gift? There was a Christmas lunch which I assumed would be post-unwrapping gifts, where I suddenly found myself receiving perfume, one of a stash of bottles that the host had obviously bought as emergency gifts. No! I don’t wear perfume and if I did it would be like giving lingerie to me, best given by a husband or bf. I came for a meal, and gathering, and relaxing. Even with an amazon wish list, isn’t it more fun to order a book on your whim, when you’re tired or stressed, than to have it delivered based on the calendar? Like, now, groundhogs day would be the perfect time to get a present don’t cha think?
My family did the same thing! It was so awesome! Now if only I could convince my in-laws… (I don’t think it will ever happen)
Just thinking – I’m glad your title wasn’t “My family didn’t exchange gifts this Christmas and the reason why will blow your mind.” 🙂