Last week a reader asked,
What about your family though (not your husband’s)? How has this way of Christmas affected their traditions and how you celebrate with them?
Which is one of the things I was going to talk about this week. Obviously, not everyone in your family circle will be immediately on board with this idea of not exchanging gifts in the traditional sense, or even with scaling back on the giving.
We haven’t ever lived near enough to my family for it to be much of a big deal. We have never been in the same province/state with them at Christmastime. I explained, every year for a while, that we would prefer they didn’t send gifts for Christmas, but save them for birthdays instead. I make clear that we won’t be giving them gifts for Christmas. (Though for the first few years I seem to remember sending token gifts, little things to mark the occasion, often homemade by my children or myself.)
Honestly, my parents still send little packets most years for the grand kids, because they want to. And I often send them a little something for $10 or less as well. It’s still exchanging gifts but on a much smaller scale. The object is to say, I’m thinking of you and remembering you, without being excessive. The distance makes this whole process easier to adjust to for everyone.
I do my best to get them something really thoughtful for their birthdays, and to remember every one and make a big deal, to compensate for this lack of Christmas gifts.
However, the GH’s maternal grandparents live nearby and they are VERY attached to their traditional Christmas celebration. They spend a lot of time and money getting gifts for everyone in the family. Yes, the family that doesn’t much care about Christmas gifts. They really get something out of the part where everyone sits around together unwrapping presents.
So, we humor them. We all show up, we eat our jello salad and cookies and we thank them for the gifts. We give the gift of time, and presence by spending a day with them. And we get them something as well. This is difficult, because they have everything two people could want already, and we don’t have a big budget for expensive presents.
What I focus on is this. What can I get for them that shows them that we love and respect them? Obviously one of their love languages is gift giving, it’s how they express their love for their family and how they are able to receive love as well. With this in mind I try to make the gift really personal. Something that involves an investment of time rather than money. One year it was hand knit dish cloths, another a quilted pillow cover with pictures of the Boy on it. Other years it’s been a framed photo or calender. Food gifts are also pretty successful, especially in pretty packaging.
This year I have the best idea ever. It started with the gratitude journal I’ve started keeping. I’ve decided to give them one as well. So I’m decorating journals, the outside has a ribbon glued on to look like it’s gift wrapped, and I’m putting random things (decorative) in the margins and on pages through out the book. I’m enclosing a letter explaining what it is and that I hope they will use it because it would be wonderful for us, their family, to be able to find a record of the things that they are thankful for and what brought them joy when they were alive. (They have been handling the estates of many family members that have passed away in the past few years so I know this will mean a lot to them.)
Another idea is to purchase gifts for these people from third world artisans and provide, mostly women, with an income and financial independence.
The Charis Project Store has handmade bags made by Karen women in refugee villages in Thailand for example.
Also, we have given donations to various charitable organizations as gifts to both of our families through out the years, in their name. And a little something to unwrap as well that symbolizes it if we can. You can buy a goat, school and medical supplies, cows, chickens, and warm clothing, all gifts for children and families in need that will improve their lives somehow. Most organizations have cards that you can print out or e-cards that tell of the gift.
There are many great places that you can do this through,
I think it depends on the person how well this gift is received. And while I’m tempted to say, “Oh grow up!” to the people who feel like you don’t love them if you don’t give them a present, I’m doing my best to be sensitive to the fact that gifts are a way that some people express and receive love. For those I generally go with something handmade as well, or instead.
Over time I have seen everyone in our families adapt to this idea in positive and surprising ways, as they grow used to it. It takes time, and I think it’s important to remember to show love to the people who find it hard to change and be patient with them.
Here are a few ideas for food gifts and hand made presents:
In fact, just read all of Meredith’s posts on frugal giving. You’ll be inspired, trust me.
Non Commercial Christmas-A few more thoughts