Monday, December 2, 2013

Six Not-So-Charitable Reasons I Don't Exchange Gifts During the Holidays

Act #336: Be true to yourself.

This year marks the fourth year our family has given up on exchanging gifts during the holidays.  Instead, we pool all of the money we would have spent on gifts and donate it to someone who might need it a tad more than we do.  The first year we bought Christmas gifts for the two children of our favorite server at our local Mexican restaurant.  The second, we did the same for a single-parent college student (this time with three children).  The third year, we split about $800 between three different local individuals with various needs ranging from heating assistance to baby cribs.  And this year, well, we are donating to the non-profit that I work with.

Before you stop reading because you think I'm about to get all preachy on you and shove down your throats, our moral obligation to be more conscious consumers and give back to our community, please bear with me.  Confession time:  I have many, many purely selfish reasons for celebrating the stress-free holiday lifestyle that we have acquired since we stopped exchanging gifts.  See for yourself.

Six Not-So-Charitable Reasons I Don't Exchange Gifts During The Holidays

1.  I'm pretty lucky.  At age 41, I don't really need that much.  Usually, if there's something I want, I have been fortunate enough to either buy it immediately or save up a few months to buy it. Gone are the days that I wait an entire year to buy that new pair of boots.  Like I said, I'm pretty lucky, and most of the people in my family and friends circle are also pretty lucky.

2.  I don't read minds.  I love my family, I really do, but God help me if I have to spend another second trying to figure out what color sweater my husband's 92 year-old grandmother might like.  And you know as well as I do, just as soon as I think I've figured it out, she'll be in the return/exchange line the day after Christmas.

3.  I don't do gift cards.  There's no better way to show how much thought you put into a gift, or how much you really know your loved ones than to just hand over a plastic card.

4.  I'm into experience gifts.  I prefer a dinner by a fireplace, a weekend getaway, a stage performance, or a drive in the country over anything that comes in a box.  Naturally, I assume everyone shares this preference with me.  Naturally, I'm wrong most of the time.

5.  I find obligatory giving to be painful.  There's nothing that zaps the joy out of the season for me than having to buy something for someone just because they've bought something for you.  There's grace and reciprocity, and then there's sheer obligation.

6.  I give at natural moments throughout the year.  One of my all-time favorite gift-giving experiences cost me $3.95, when my 60-year old colleague shared a meaningful time in her life when she was a young newlywed who didn't know how to cook.  She got all her recipes from the Manwich cookbook!  I went on e-Bay that day and found her a "vintage" copy.  I didn't wait until December 25th.   

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