Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Simplifying gifts

Neil and I are not big gift-giving people.  For the last five years, we have not gotten each other gifts for Christmas or our anniversary.  We do find or make something small for birthdays, but nothing extravagant.  One year in Oregon Neil found a free bedside lamp on Craigslist the day of my birthday.  The next year I was working in West Africa he wrote new lyrics to the tune of one of our favorite songs and sent it to me in an email.  Last year I made a playlist of songs that referenced various parts of our relationship and wrote a short description of why I included each.  This year I got him a used belt from a nearby surplus store.

For us, the lack of big gifts is both freeing and practical.  Gift giving is not our love language.  Since we are both on board with this approach, it saves us money, time, and stress.  We still celebrate special occasions, just not with physical presents.

We are fortunate to have families that are on board with taking simpler approach to holiday gift giving.  The adults in my family draw names and only buy a gift for that individual.  We all still buy presents for the children in the family (five grandchildren, including HP), but no one goes overboard.  In Neil's family we get everyone something, but there is an understanding that the gifts should be practical, homemade, used, and/or edible.  Neil's family is not large (HP is the only grandchild) so finding or making something for each family or family unit does not feel overwhelming.

We want to make Christmas special for HP.  In my family we never got gifts outside of our birthdays and Christmas so those events were a big deal.  I want HP to experience the magic of opening presents on Christmas morning, but I think there is something to be said for opening a small number of thoughtful and meaningful gifts rather than a huge pile.

After many discussions, Neil and I came to an agreement on what to get HP this year.  From us, he's getting:
  • This wooden turtle shapes puzzle from Etsy
  • A knife safe for HP to use with me in the kitchen (stocking present)
  • Used books I got from the library book sale and a free toy swap
  • A small duck with wheels attached to a string that I found at Goodwill (stocking present)
  • Block beeswax crayons (stocking present)
I am also on the look out for a broom at a garage sale or thrift store that we can cut down to his size, but am not too worried about whether we find it in time for Christmas.

We could have scaled back even more since at this age HP does not even understand the concept of Christmas, but this feels like the right middle ground for our family.  We are getting him thoughtful presents that he will use and enjoy, but keeping it simple.

I would love to hear any creative gift exchanges or alternatives to gift giving you do with your families or friends.  A book group I am a part of is doing a used book exchange at the December meeting, which seems like such a great idea.  I am considering floating the idea of doing this for the adults in my family next year instead of a more free-form Secret Santa.  Share your ideas, please!

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