Saturday, December 6, 2008

Non-Present Presents

Ok, so we are three weeks out from Christmas and the temptation to buy, buy, buy is setting in. I mean, don't get me wrong, I am pretty good at ignoring societal pressures. However, I do fall victim to the mentality of, "well, sister-in-law is going to buy something for me, so I better check her off my list."

Please help me to thwart this trend of buying thoughtless trinkets and spending hours in line at the post office to mail them without being the family Grinch. What non-present present traditions do you have in your families that work? Ways you spread the holiday cheer without spending the needless cash? Preemptive thank you. Happy Feast of Saint Nicholas to all.

How you hanging, MA?


Stephanie said...

This year, my extended family decided to make a donation to the local food pantry instead of the gift exchange. Seemed so selfish to look through ads and TRY to find something we want when so many are suffering this year. I think people always enjoy when you make a donation (no matter how small) to a charity you think they feel strongly about.

MomVee said...

It seems to me there are two issues here: the thoughtless trinkets, hours in line, shopping, etc. is one. The needless cash is another. It's a little late this year to try to achieve non-present consensus in an extended family. And having attempted it twice myself, I expect you'll find some resistance. We still do gifts but I try to send as many family and consumable items as possible. We received three months of coffee last year which we very much enjoyed, and are giving Alaskan salmon (for June delivery) to a few family members this year.

In my immediate family and with my own parents, we have nearly eliminated adult gift-giving and try very hard to focus the celebration on games and music-making rather than tearing open packages.

margaretmjdmom said...

I like - they send out nice gift gards to the receipients too! The idea is that they give people livestock to help improve their lives. It does cost money, but it is helping someone else! I think you can get a chicken for like $10! : )

B-Mama said...

I have also thought of giving through before--beyond providing livestock, chickens, rabbits, etc., you give the give of multiplication! The animals reproduce readily and the gift keeps on giving to others within the same town.

Right Said Red said...

Food or other consumable gifts are a good idea. I struggle with this same thing as I come from a family that is VERY into giving gifts for the holidays. It just gets really expensive and unnecessary.

One of the ways people show love is through giving gifts, I think C.S. Lewis talked about this as a love language? Anyway, it's not really part of my love language to want to give stuff or get stuff, but it is the love language of many of my extended family members. This makes it really difficult to cut back. They love to buy each other gifts...and so it definitely puts a damper on everyone plans if we don't want to participate.

I don't have a lot of suggestions other than to try to work these things out in advance. We pushed really hard to end some gift exchanges in the early fall, it's kindof on the late side to stop things now.

One last suggestion--give pictures! We give a nice family photos to some adult relatives now in place of a gift. They seem to really appreciate it.

Mary Alice said...

I have both given and received Heifer gifts and I think they are wonderful.

My dad has started asking for Home Depot gift cards, he saves them until he has enough to buy something really big, last summer he put together Christmas and his birthday and bought a table saw. This made me so happy, because he was as excited as a kid at Christmas about his saw and usually I just get him a book or gloves or something, and it really felt like it was a gift that came from all of us!

We have so many kids that we feel guilty having people buy stuff for all of them, so this year we have encouraged a "family" gift exchange with one set of cousins -- we are giving them something that we think the whole family can enjoy together (book, movie, game?), and they will do the same for us. We will see them in person, so this way the kids still get the fun of picking out and giving something to the cousins.

There are companies that make movies or slideshows online, which might be fun for far away relatives.

A gift that our kids have loved is Barnes and Noble gift cards and a "date" to go with one parent and pick out a book. To a four year old, buying something yourself is a thrill! Also, one cousin has started giving my kids a few dollars in a card, just like grandma used to do, and they get really excited about this, and she can take care of all of our kids for under $20. The chance to pick out your own pack of gum is as good as a huge toy sometimes!

BTW, still pregnant!


katie said...

Our family has moved through different stages on this issue - I'm the oldest and first married - and in the earliest years we did give "couple" gifts - which tended to be a serving piece or small appliance that the giftee had not received or still needed after getting married. As kids came along - believe it or not - we actually avoided any individual kid gifts outside extended family. With 25 children on my side of the family i am sure glad of that! For a number of years we gave "family gifts", giving and receiving "movie nights" (VHS tape plus goodies), game nights (board game plus goodies) or something along those lines. Fast forward to now - oldest offspring are 24 - two are married - and now I am helping my adult sons figure out gift giving protocols. We don't want to make things crazy but I think it's time for them to GIVE to their grandma and gramps - and I think that gift giving as an art tends to get deformed by our materialist consumerism - but I don't want to give it up entirely! Done well, it can be a lovely expression of love.
Bottom line - we're run full circle at our house - and are back where we begun.

Kristen said...

How about giving a favorite recipe with a small item from the recipe attached; the recently mentioned barley soup, for example. You can give a bag of pearl barley with a recipe attached to it. I have done that with tortellini soup.

Gabrielle said...

Right Said Red brought up a point I thought of immediately - about the "love language" of gift giving. I think gift giving at Christmas is a really lovely tradition, though it is hard sometimes to remember that we give gifts at this time because the greatest Gift was given to us by our Father. I think it is particularly important for some people to give and receive gifts but as Gary Chapman points out in his book, it doesn't need to be a lavish gift. This is a different question from the drive some people seem to have to give bigger and more expensive gifts each year. My husband's family tends to spend a lot of money on gifts which sometimes bugs him and he's expressed a preference for my family's way of putting a lot of thought and care into selecting a gift, instead of a lot of money -- but then, as I pointed out to him, we just usually don't have a lot of money in my family! But he did make me appreciate all the more the gifts that my parents and siblings give us at Christmas because it is so clear in their choices that they KNOW us and love us...I'm not sure if that made any sense...

AWOL Mommy said...

wonderful thoughts and suggestions, Ladies. I am going to run with several of these. Thanks.