I’ve always loved giving gifts. There’s a small closest in our house dedicated to gifts from trips around the world year round.
In the mad dash to get ready to travel home, between writing a technical document, finishing one manuscript, launching another book and producing a book trailer, I went through the house pulling out everything but clothes that needed to go.
Downstairs I threw open a door and found forgotten items from South Africa, Turkey, and Greece tucked away into bags no one had ever seen. I sat back on my heels. I bought most of the ornaments, wine stoppers and tiny vases in 2011. Here they sat, waiting for me to remember then. The pile was an unavoidable fact.
Something happened to my joy of gift giving. Maybe it started the year we arrived on December 22 to find the malls full of people so angry that they couldn’t even smile when I clucked in sympathy for their long hours.
Perhaps another part of it was the fact modern holiday revelry means if you’re not stressed out, grumpy about family gatherings, and in general put out by the demands of parties, travel, or giving during the most wonderful time of year, then you work for Hallmark. Living overseas make it easier to drown out the 24/7 retailer demands on television and radio to show how much you really love your loved ones.
I’m the kind of person who puts up the Christmas tree while the Thanksgiving turkey is roasting.
Call me type A, call me crazy. But I wanted to take my holiday back. To bounce out of bed and be excited by the day ahead — the food, the fun, the family. Where can I find it?
This year we agreed: no gifts will be exchanged between adults. Amazing what a simple decree like that does for your spirits (and checkbook). In most cases they can get what they need for themselves. Let’s be honest. And those that don’t? They are easier to find without the background din.
That’s right, not even from or for my husband. Gifts only for the children (which in our family we have five and if you throw cousins into the mix, still fewer than ten people).
Ever since I was a teenager and could earn money, I’ve felt the pressure of the material undertones to the holidays. There was one particular friend whose family showered them with so many gifts, I knew my budget item could never
compete. So I did the next best thing: I took the money I would have spent on him and sponsored a few gifts for a child in need. My friend got an ornament with a date that he could hang on the tree forever.
Soon the trend caught on and that was the only gift we exchanged. Over ten years later my tree is now covered with ornaments of our decision to forgo for each other and pass-it-on.
Now as an adult, I buck the trend to be wearied by the expectation to find the perfect gift for loved ones. Instead of piling on the presents for our toddler, I step aside and let grandparents, aunts, and uncles have the pleasure.
Maybe it’s too late for this year (or maybe not, thinking of soup kitchens, food banks, and other programs) but next year think of what can help put the joy back into your holidays instead of steam under your hood at the already overcrowded mall.
What are your secrets for holding on to your holiday cheer? Or have you surrendered to Scrooge?