My Unpopular Thoughts on Holiday Gift Giving
When it came to Christmas time, I was a spoiled kid. Our family had its share of issues, and I kind of think my mom wanted to make it up to me. I remember my first, full-sized bike, and how I couldn't contain the fact it was the wrong one. Another year, I got a set of three (yes, 3) train sets, a monstrous race track (both of which I miss today,) and a full bedroom set. After my mom died (when I was 13,) and I moved in with my dad, he was quick to say "Don't expect it to be like that here." The truth was, I never really expected it before. I expected a fun time with family, yes, some presents, and, well, great food.
My sister taught me the art of buying lots of tiny, cheap, yet thoughtful things. I got goodies like Faith No More and Living Colour albums, and a colorful, plastic flower that danced when music played. And it was perfect.
The problem is not everyone is my sister. I lost count of how many times other family members asked for receipts to return things I went out of my way to buy for them, leaving me hurt and frustrated. And I've noticed that the people who would give their lives for me - my dad when I was growing up, and my wife today - have tended to feel a lot of pressure, because they know throwing money at a relationship is bull****, but they still wanted to take the opportunity to express their feelings - sometimes resulting in a present that makes you go, "What??"
My dad did figure out his gift-giving thing years ago: Give cash in a cute, Christmasy envelope, because nothing is more fun than going out and spending money on yourself, with no strings attached. And - He didn't have to deal with the ridiculous, butt-busting crowd scene. Duh!
When a gift falls flat, everyone feels like crap. The giver feels guilty or angry, the recipient feels bad for perhaps being ungrateful, but still kind of mad, because, "seriously??!" And anyone who's in the room wishes they weren't. When this scene makes its entrance, how much are we thinking about how fortunate we are for everything we have? Because I'd rather find a way to be in that place.
Here are some stats on gift giving that might suggest there's a better way to do Christmas:
1. 60% of people said that when they pretend to like something, it's usually because they don't want to offend the person who gave it to them. It's not clear what our other reasons are. Maybe we just don't want to create even more holiday drama?
2. 71% said they have old, unwanted gifts sitting around the house.
3. Over the years, people estimated that they've gotten an average of $954 worth of bad Christmas gifts they'll never use.
4. 22% of us have hated a gift so much, we immediately admitted we didn't like it.
This year, we're jacking Christmas all up - because I don't want us to ever feel bad about presents again. It's just not supposed to be that way. My girls already got most of their Christmas goodies from us: A pair of orange tabby kitties who needed a home last month. We'll see what Santa brings each of us - usually one or two out-of-this-world things, because well - he's Santa Claus, and he just knows.
To me it would be sad to not have anything to open on Christmas; but, somewhere between my mom's way and my dad's is the truth to me. So, a couple of things for us all it shall be this year. No long shopping extravaganza. No long lists to fill out. We all - even my girls, who admitted this days back - have pretty much everything we want. So we all know it would be stupid and wasteful in numerous ways to do things the way society tells us to.
Know what I want for Christmas? Time. And money to do what I really want to do with it. You won't catch me butting heads with other tired people at Target this year. But you might see my tribe and me exploring downtown Denver some random weekend soon, zipping down ski slopes, sitting in a hot tub in the snow outside a mountain cabin, or taking an adventure to somewhere we've never been together. You know - a present you'd never want to return.
After all, Christmas, as well as the other holidays are but reminders, anyway. Are we really supposed to only be givers in December? Be thankful only in November? Just start new on Easter or New Year's Day? Only dress like a prostitute on Halloween? Only blow up my neighbor's garage on the fourth of July? Oh, I think I got lost in there somewhere. Oh well, like you're still reading this, anyway. ;)