7.25.2012

Holly Jolly?

Congratulations. If my math skills are correct (which they usually aren't) you have 153 shopping days left until Christmas. That's right. In five short months, your family will be racing through hallways and tearing off wrapping paper and telling Aunt Myrtle "thanks" for the set of polyester pajamas that she sent.

Christmas. The whole idea is that we're celebrating the birth of the Christ child, right? Over the years, we became sidetracked by the shiny bobbles and Santa-themed wrapping paper, and Christ's arrival on Earth was lost behind the new toys and trinkets, the company Christmas parties, and the spiked punch that is sometimes required to get through the family reunions.

As I've gone on this journey of simplifying, I've found myself thinking a lot about the idea of gift giving. Don't get me wrong, there's not much I look forward to more than opening presents with Peter on Christmas morning, but something has been gnawing at me since last year when my family exchanged "stocking stuffers".

As we all sat around my parent's living room and pulled out gift cards to the same restaurant, I half-jokingly said, "So, we all just exchanged money to the same place - maybe we should have just gone out to eat instead." Everyone chuckled and then moved on to the next gift card in the stocking.

However, I continued to think about this idea of exchanging money in the form of gift cards - what was the point? It started because we all announced that we were trying to clean out. We didn't need or want another thermal tumbler, holiday mug, or wind-up flashlight. The sweaters, candle holders, and scented soaps that you spent good money on, all went out in the yard sale last month.


Although we've discussed foregoing the exchanging of gifts this year, and using the money to take a trip instead, everyone wants to go somewhere different and we range in age from 4 to 71, so you can see the dilemma. While some folks truly enjoy exchanging gifts (real gifts, not gift cards), others would rather take a trip with their immediate family over the holidays.

We've held out the lofty idea of using the money that we would have spent on each other, to buy a goat in Africa or a bicycle for a missionary in Asia, but the fact of the matter is - we do that anyway. My parents raised us to understand that money was just a tool from God, and we were to be good stewards of it and use it to help others. To my knowledge, we all support missionaries or pack shoeboxes or buy bee hives in Jesus name. And then on top of that, we give gift cards to each other. It's never been an either-or situation. 


As I watch both my parents and my siblings age, I realize that there will come a year when we won't see each other at all during the holidays. Some, because they live elsewhere, and others, because they won't be with us anymore. I think that's one of the reasons why the trip idea appeals to me, or simply going out to dinner as a family instead of exchanging gift cards so we can go out individually.

For me, it has really become about the time spent together, the fellowship over a well-prepared meal, the photos taken during a shared experience, and the memories that will remain when we're no longer together. At 30, I now realize that the people have become more important to me than the gifts that they give.

How do YOU handle holiday gift giving?

11 comments:

  1. Carrie,

    Because I so like your love of LM Montgomery and because you have even discovered a book of hers I've never heard of (!), I have decided to give you a free Christmas-giving tip :-)

    We love vouchers... home made, for home made services. eg Voucher for 1 Foot Rub, Voucher for taking over the dish washing when it was your turn but you're too tired, Voucher for taking you out to dinner on a day you need cheering up. You can of course give sets: 5 vouchers for taking over your vacuuming tasks for a month.

    They are fun to make, very nice to give and very delightful to receive. The idea pretty much retains the full job of gift giving, moving right away from materialism.

    And I agree - the nicest part of Christmas day or any celebration is being together, taking a walk together, preparing food together... all the "together" stuff. The older we get, the more we realise: people count most of all, especially those we love and who love us.

    Wish you happy summer days Carrie,
    Ali in Switz.

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    1. Wow, so many great comments on here! The voucher idea will certainly go into the file for future ideas - thanks!

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  2. I have felt the same as you. I sometimes feel like all the gift giving is pointless. I know that last year, I unwrapped more than a few presents that were obviously given to me because the person giving it felt like they needed to get me something (ie: "a spa pedicure gift set"). Daniel and I have already talked about paring down what we get each other. We don't exchange gifts on a lot of days... anniversary, Valentine's Day, etc. It was getting to the point that we were just buying things to buy things. Instead we take ourselves out to a nice dinner or some other experience. I much prefer quality time to things I don't need. We've even suggested to some of our immediate family that they consider contributing to Matthew's college savings fund for Christmas instead of buying him toys for Christmas. We're pretty low and space (and quite honestly, he has already amassed a large collection of toys). A few of them have indicated that it isn't fun to give towards college savings and would prefer to get him toys. But I'm really not sure that I want Matthew to grow up surrounded with stuff he doesn't need.

    That being said, we haven't been able to completely stop giving gifts. Both of our families are far away. And since D is in residency, he is working over every major holiday. My siblings and I are spread out between three states. Needless to say, we aren't able to leave town and see our families. This is why I still make a point to send gifts to family. I want our families to know that we love them and are thinking about them. I have two nieces (almost 3 and 6) that are getting gifts from everyone else and I especially feel like we need to send them something since we aren't there with them on the holidays. We still try to think of "experience" gifts. I love to get craft sets for the nieces (so they can have an afternoon being creative!). I also do a lot of gift cards for family members. (ie: I have a family member that is supporting herself as a waitress while she tries to find employment as a teacher... I am really okay with buying gift cards for her since I know she would probably really appreciate it). I know that we DO enjoy getting gift cards because most of the time, D and I don't spend the money on eating out. It is a nice excuse for a date night.

    I'm not sure what our Christmas giving will look like if/when we move closer to family. I know that my family has talked about doing a trip instead of gifts... We just haven't found a time we can all do it together yet :)

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    1. The trip thing IS hard to pull off, especially with one brother outside of the U.S. and sisters in a different state and nephews of all different ages. However, it's a goal I'd like to see happen. I love hearing this feedback, and I hope you'll report again when your situation changes.

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  3. Both sides of our family do a Christmas Drawing for the the grown-up siblings. The parents draw names and everyone gets assigned ONE person to buy for that year, usually at a $50 limit or so. I prefer this method - I get to put a lot of thought into one gift and I am able to have the time and resources to make it special and meaningful.

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    1. Karen, we considered the drawing idea. Maybe I'll bring it up again...

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  4. Gift gift is my least favorite part of Christmas. We've tried all sorts of methods with my husband's large family and we walk away from all of them feeling groddy. Grown nieces and nephews complaining that they didn't get the best gift in the white elephant, same "kids" crying (literally) because they didn't get the biggest gift card in the round robin, it goes on and on. Yet heaven help you if you suggest we just get together to share a meal as a family and do gifts only for the little kids. I dread it every year.

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    1. Isn't that sad, Shannon? I know what you mean though. There has to be a better way!

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  5. We do a drawing on my husband's side. He has 3 siblings, all married, and there's several kids now. So we each pick 1 name, and then we all buy something for the parents & his grandma. It's fun, you get to shop for someone different every year - and some are harder, some are easier to buy for.

    Also, both of our families keep a year-round "wish list" on Google docs. That way we're not buying "yet another sweater" (etc) that nobody really wants. On the other hand, we've never been big on gift cards (last resort sort of thing), so it helps with that too.

    Both of our families are scattered from AL to NH - so while we're trying to do family trips, it's a bit harder to plan. Great idea to keep in mind, though!

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    1. I like the idea of a "wish list" - I do that for Peter, but my family would never go for that. While I love the idea of trips and together time, with one brother living out of the country and my other siblings in different states, it's not very realistic for us, either. :-(

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  6. The most meaningful Christmases we have had have been the ones where we just did presents for the "little" kids in the morning, and then hosted an open house from noon till six, and invited everyone we knew who didn't have family nearby. At first my parents were kind of resistant to the idea because they didn't know anyone we'd invited, but it actually turned out great. We totally avoided that post-present, post-big meal let down. Another family we know takes their entire gift budget and buys for a less fortunate family and delivers the gifts (and food) Christmas Eve; then they head out of town Christmas Day for a few days at the beach.

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There are more than 400,000 words in the English language. My only request of you is this: Use them wisely.

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