I just don’t get it! Undoubtedly, it’s just that I’m abnormal. Because most people I know look forward to the holiday season with downright glee, while I just can’t wait till it’s over. I just don’t get all the hub bub and rushing, and all the effort to make that one day perfect. So I’m glad Epiphany marked the end of the season here. But most of all, I just don’t understand the gift-giving.
We used to do it too. Partly because we like making others happy. But mostly because it was the expected thing. If we didn’t give gifts, people would feel bad. And we would look like giant cheapskates.
But what a stress it all was. I mean, I live here in the First World. Modern, materialistic, wealthy Europe. (Even if I am in one of western Europe’s worst-off nations.) Most folks have everything they need, plus all the latest gadgets and electronics. Ain’t nobody that needs nothin’. So what to buy? (Just what do you buy for someone who has it all?)
That’s why, a few years ago, we decided to ditch Christmas.
But honestly, it’s left me in a pickle about how to explain it to friends without seeming like Scrooge or the Grinch. Because I love Christmas. That, and Easter, are my favorite holidays. They give meaning to my life, put peace in my heart, and give me a hope for the future. I love them.
But I don’t like this mad caricature that has come to replace Christmas. Stressful shopping, crazy racing about, and endless work in the kitchen over far more food than necessary. Especially with all the hunger around the world.
We don’t do Christmas presents with our families.
For one thing, they’re all currently in the USA, and postage has gotten ridiculously high. (Why make the government rich?) We simply told them that the ideas behind Christmas gifts go against our principles, because we are minimalists, and because we feel cutting back helps the environment. Manufacturing unneeded stuff adds to pollution and depletes resources. And also because we’d really like to see everyone find the freedom of living with less stuff and less debt, which means less work and greater serenity. And those are truly priceless!
And family seems to understand (or at least tries to) this strange path we follow. But friends? I guess we just haven’t been good enough at explaining. We’ll have to try harder.
Actually we still give gifts, because we love giving things. Especially when we can meet a real need. Like a bag of groceries or shoes for kids’ growing feet! And we continue to give to charities, missions, and people in need.
We would even consider giving Christmas gifts, but we noticed that when we give something people feel obligated to give something in return. And we honestly don’t want or need anything. More stuff in our minimalist household just creates problems for us!! Mario recently received a wristwatch and a bottle of cologne, and he doesn’t use either. What are we to do with them? So we find it simpler to just not do the whole gift thing.
Perhaps you too would like to simplify and take the commercial out of Christmas.
But maybe you don’t want to go cold turkey like we did. Or don’t even know where to begin. If so, I’ve found some viable Christmas gift alternatives for you. And I’m sharing them now, even though Christmas is a year away! Because they’ll take some planning and thinking over.
Write your family history.
Make into a nice booklet to give your kids, grandkids, or relatives. So many family memories, history, and legends get lost and forgotten as family members pass on. Writing your memoirs could make a special gift that will live on, even long after you’re gone. And it gives the message that family, not things, are the truly important things in life.
Make a Memory Jar.
Collect old photos, and ask friends and families to write out their memories involving the recipient. Copy them onto index cards, fold, and place in a large decorated jar. If you come up with 365 items, they could open one a day, making this a gift that lasts the whole year! This gives the idea that memories, not stuff, are the things worth treasuring!
Help a child open a savings account.
Give the starting amount, promising to add to it throughout the year with birthday gifts and the like. A unique gift that teaches children the value of saving. Plus they get a little savings account book all their own, which makes them feel so grown up!
Instead of doing a gift exchange at your place of work, try a cookie exchange. The idea is that each guest takes a plate of cookies holding one cookie (plus a recipe card) for each person. All guests get a paper sack, which they then fill with one cookie and its recipe from each plate. This is especially fun if people bring many kinds of cookies. The value of this gift is that it helps take the focus off shopping and getting stuff, and shows that even simple things can bring pleasure and fun!
This is another great one for offices, churches, or any group who wants to buy less at Christmas. Offer snacks and drinks, and invite your participants. Each person simply brings 3 quality used items from their home: useful, beautiful, fun, funny, or interesting. (Note: Quality doesn’t mean expensive, but in good condition, well-made, worthwhile, and likely to be valued.) Folks stay to munch, visit, and shop around, taking away items they’d like to give as gifts (or keep for themselves). This teaches that true value is about beauty and/or usefulness, not commercial value. And presents the idea that gifts do not have to be brand new.
This one also takes the commercial aspects out of gift-giving. And presents ideas to make gift giving more personal, while helping the environment at the same time! But I’ll let you read for yourself these surprising ideas!
And now over to you: What do you think? Would you like to make gift giving more simple? Or am I just simply too strange? I don’t know, but this one thing I can say:
All I want for Christmas is peace on earth and good will for all.
I don’t need, or want, anything else.” And I’d say that makes me rich indeed!