Gifts and Memories

The CarolersWhen did Christmas lose it’s exciting allure? When I stopped needing anything and began wanting less and less?

Many years ago I stopped buying many Christmas presents because it had become such a chore. It isn’t that I don’t love my children and grandchildren.  And I love to buy them gifts if I know what they love and/or need.  Need was less of an issue through the years.

All of the kids had a list of what they wanted for Christmas.  And each of the parents could add to the list.  It became a juggling act of buying an even amount of gifts within the same range as those gifts given to each and every child and grandchild.  And for what?

No matter which family we visited on Christmas Day it seemed (to me) to be a horrific display of overindulgence, overspending and, sometimes, under-appreciation.  There were all sorts of rituals to make the day manageable.  All of the parents were careful to have the children open gifts one at a time, acknowledging the gift with varying degrees of gratitude before the next person took a turn.  One family, whose tradition it was to have the kids stop and play with a gift if they chose, took the entire day to open presents.

And I loved seeing the joy on the faces of the children as they opened the longed-for gifts.

I was also dismayed by the amount and size of the heaps of presents around the trees.  Is anyone capable of truly appreciating an individual gift in the maelstrom of torn wrapping paper and ripped packaging?

Because I was raised in a family that didn’t celebrate Christmas except as a religious holiday, gifts have never been the most important part of the season for me. And the older I got the more I became convinced that we could all do better to comprehend our personal privilege and fortunate birth by giving to those in need. Several years ago we changed the tradition to match my core values. You can read about it here.

I now have an even better plan.

Beginning with the first birthday in January all gifts (other than the Christmas charitable choices) will be experiences that create memories. I’ll go shopping with any member of my family if they have a need or desire. And I’ll love it if we consume their gift by enjoying a favorite restaurant together. I’ll go bowling, horseback riding, dancing or to a concert or play. It just wont be a gift certificate or a beautifully wrapped package.

It will be the gift of time together. This should grant me time with each and every family member at least twice a year. (Maybe even three times a year if they honor my wishes and reciprocate in their gift giving.)

I’m so excited!


  1. That sounds wonderful! I restrict the number of christmas presents I give my children but I feel a tinge of guilt near to the holiday… did I get enough??? Last minute panic… but my children are always so happy to get the things they love!


  2. FANTASTIC plan! Whenever I express the idea of less “gift giving” and more appreciation of life and those around us … I am greeted with the notion of being a “grinch!” Gifts should be given during “birthdays” … Christmas is Jesus birthday…we should give to the needy. I would even consider limitation of Christmas gifts to children … but then, the age is a moving target. No matter … I will remain caught up in the expectation … lest I offend those I love dearly. What is a girl to do? Appreciate your blog! Thanks!


  3. This is a lovely lovely way to celebrate the people in your life! Well done to you! Am curious now that some time has passed to know how it’s gone over and are they reciprocating in kind?


    • It has worked out well. Sometimes it takes a year for them to decide what they want. That’s pretty much an indication of need (NOT!) for some of them. Still, we talk more, get together a bit, and ultimately I am happier with the situation. As the grandchildren get older, we don’t see the necessity to make every gift equal. One college or independent child might just need groceries. What the heck?


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