Last week, Addie came home with the usual end of the week paperwork from her school. It comes home in a big folder and I have included an agenda with big boxes that leave plenty of space for explaining things. They don’t call me Chatty Kathy for nothing. Two of the papers concerned the coming holidays and one was a permission slip granting exposure to diverse holidays. If I have any reservations about certain holidays, I guess they are giving me the option of opting my child out from exposure to said holiday. Please, expose away! Paper #1 was an order form. The special needs classes are going on a shopping trip to the Dollar Store and you could send $1.10 per item and designate it for a certain person. Paper #2 was an RSVP for a classroom Potluck held on the last day of school before the big break. Turns out, we have a long appointment scheduled for that day with the Allergy and Asthma Drs. and there’s no changing those kinds of appointments, unless you are willing to wait 6 months. Paper #2 was easy…sorry, there’s a Dr appt scheduled that day! Paper #1, not so easy.
“We don’t exchange Christmas gifts, but Addie will love the shopping trip!”
When I took Addie to school today after her PT appointment, the para who picked her up was quick to ask me about Paper #1. So, I planted both my feet and said what I had written on the sheet this morning.
You would think I said, “We don’t eat meat.” or “We raise dinosaurs in the backyard.” or “I was abducted by aliens last night.” or “I was adopted and no one told me.” Because, who celebrates Christmas, but doesn’t buy gifts??? Who does that?
People talk a lot about how less is more and how buying gifts for the sake of tradition is meaningless and makes for empty exchanges and gee, wouldn’t it be better if we did more things that truly reflected the meaning of the season? Sometimes life hands you a set of circumstances and you are pushed into a corner and when you turn around and look back at where you’ve been…..you can see what less is more means. It’s not that gift giving is bad or good and it’s not even that these holidays shouldn’t be spent making others happy. If that is what it really does, knock yourself out. It doesn’t for me. I’ll tell you what we do, rather than what we don’t. It’s not so much about what I reject, as it is about how much better it feels (to me) to experience this time of year without the obligation to give gifts.
What we do: Up until this year (and we still may…we just moved this year, so we are in a different neighborhood) we go caroling. Yep, the gather a group of neighbors (indeed, they did go kicking and screaming, but they went) and walk down the street singing old carols. Take some wassail along! It feels really good to sing really loud outside in the dark and when the occasional front door opens to the surprise of the resident, they feel good as well. The first year of ungifting Christmas, we made homemade gifts. I don’t think you have to be particularly talented to make stuff. Mostly, it was pictures frames with little things glued to it and a picture of us inside. One step up from that might be to purchase (or make) things that are handmade. That can get expensive, but when you take the personalization of a gift up a notch, the receiver is touched. We host a gingerbread house building party. It can be potluck, byob. It doesn’t have to be on par with Martha Stewart…you can buy boxes of graham crackers and tubs of icing and bags of candy. Trust me, give a grown man a few supplies and you will find him sitting at the table constructing a house that will hold together and teaching some little kid why a juxtaposed wall will support a roof laden with peppermints. Pile into the car after dinner (who cares what you are wearing) and drive through neighborhoods oohing and aahing at lights on houses. You might be surprised how many other cars of people you see doing the same thing. We don’t put up a tree or lights either…I am happy to enjoy the efforts of someone else. And they get to put it all away, not me. (are you getting the lower stress factor here?) If the Nutcracker is playing in your city, go see it. If it’s a kids production, even better.
Here’s the hard part: spend time with others. Make time. Be the one that travels to a relatives house. And consider stopping for breakfast on the way. You know Waffle House is always open. Tipping your server $100 is something incredible. Because, really….working at WH on Christmas day.
We’ve been ungifted since 2001. Yep, got kids. Five of them and they don’t hate me for it.
What happens when someone GIVES me a gift? I say Thank you. And I mean it. Being a good receiver is just as important as being a good giver. It’s not about the thing, it’s about the person. If they don’t know you don’t give gifts, then tell them. After you say Thank you.
By the way, Christmas comes around again in 364 days. There’s nothing wrong with taking a year off.