On gift giving and other Christmas expectations

I’ve been working on this blog post about Christmas expectations for the past few days, but I’ve had a hard time getting the thoughts down and the words right. Essentially, I’m paring down my Christmas: I’m sending less cards, giving fewer gifts, and not baking for anyone (not even myself).

Maybe someone will be hurt by being excluded or maybe someone will feel like I should have reciprocated their generosity, but I want to get away from the expectations of reciprocation, commercialization, anxiety inducing shopping, holiday debt, etc. And, frankly, we’re all adults and I refuse to be responsible for someone else’s Christmas expectations.

I’m not entirely sure where this all came from:

  • my continued interest in the idea of a minimalist lifestyle?
  • my continued efforts to take better care of myself (reducing stress, etc.)?
  • my frustration with the commercialization of everything?
  • maybe just that, as I’m getting older, I’m less and less interested in the gift-giving aspect, but more and more interested in just being able to spend a relaxing holiday with the people I love

Over the years, the holidays had become something that I was starting to dread. Last year, while I should have been spending all my time being thrilled at spending a rare Christmas with wee my niece-phew niblings (thanks for the term, Bridgeen), I spent a significant amount of time feeling stressed and guilty about not sending anything to the friends and family that I usually visit at Christmas. Which is silly because they’re all grown-ass adults and I’m sure they all know that I love them to bits! So, instead of finding another way to celebrate with them (such as picking up the phone!), I just let myself feel bad.

Dumb, dumb, dumb.

This year, I’m doing things a bit differently and testing out a few new ideas:

  1. The kids in my life will still be getting presents. And, so are my two adult cousins, who will forever be stuck at the “kids” table with me because I refuse to acknowledge the fact that they’re not teenagers anymore.
  2. I did significantly fewer Christmas cards this year. I’m not giving any to people that I will see, because I’d rather express my gratitude for them through my presence and not a piece of paper. I carefully selected the people who I sent cards to, focusing on far away friends and elderly relatives. Because I had so few to send, I was able to take the time to add personal notes to each card, expressing my love and/or gratitude for them. I even sent them on time, for once.
  3. I didn’t bake. Not one cookie, not even for myself. I started not baking last year, because, frankly, I just don’t enjoy baking that much. Especially not on the scale needed for Christmas treats.
  4. I’ve adjusted what I give as gifts. I’ve been sending a gift card to a friends’ kids for the past couple of years, allowing them to pick what they want (in theory, books) and decided to do the same sort of thing for everyone, so that they can get what they want/need. My niece-phew niblings will be getting a museum membership, because museums are awesome!**

Pairing things down has meant that today, just a few days from Christmas, my only stress left to deal with is packing for my longer than normal time away for the holidays. It also means that I was able to put a little more thought and care into the gifts and cards that I did share. Yeah, gift cards aren’t glamorous, but I made sure to pick ones that would be useful and still a little fun (not toys, but not socks, either).

I know that I will still have moments of anxiety and guilt over not bringing cards and treats for everyone I’ll see over the holidays, but I think that this is the right way to do things. It’s better to give as much of me as possible to the people who matter most than to spread myself out too thin to show any real gratitude for their friendship.

**Some would argue that this is unfair to wee kids and that I should be sending books and toys, but I can send them books and toys any day. A museum membership allows the whole family to to have fun together without worrying about things like staying long enough to justify the admission. Also, I’m hoping they’ll take me next time I visit :)

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4 Responses to On gift giving and other Christmas expectations

  1. Geen Geenie says:

    I couldn’t agree more that expectations are the biggest Christmas killer! I commend your entirely healthy new approach. I’ve gone through similar things (hand making gifts, trying to give to every body) and come to very similar conclusions. Perhaps it’s because i’m not well this year, but i’ve been finding the perceived ‘expectations’ easier to ignore, and once you do you realize there isn’t anything you HAVE TO do anyway. I still know the anxiety and guilt part- I didn’t send xmas cards this year either (but I have been sick and thus letting myself off the hook), but i did feel a bit bad about it. I did send my own e-cards though to let people know i was thinking of them. It’s all about what you feel able to do really, and not what you think you should do. I believe that’s the way to go!
    Happy Christmas Anne. I hope you have a good one! x

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    • I’m so sorry you’re not well this year. I had wondered why I hadn’t seen much of you online these past few weeks, but assumed it was just holiday season business. I hope that you get better quickly and that your New Year is good to you :)

      I agree that it’s important to stick with what you feel able to do. In order to help myself stay the more minimalist course, I documented (in detail) what I did this year and I made sure to add, in big bold letters, “these are not rules, just guidelines” to remind myself that I can adjust as needed. I’m already being hit by periodic slaps of guilt so intense it’s almost nauseating, but I’m standing firm because I’m confident that I made the right decisions. And, really, if anyone is offended, than maybe they need to re-examine their Christmas expectations.

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  2. Geen Geenie says:

    p.s a great plural word for nieces and nephews is niblings (no, I’m not making that up!) i wish I’d known it when mine where younger and I’d call to use it a lot! Anyway, there you go, That’s my gift to you this xmas ;-)

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