I love driving down city and suburban streets to see buildings, street lamps and homes adorned and lit up in honour of Christmas. I get caught up in the excitement of holiday cheer, with joyous music and candy cane decorations in store front windows. I look forward to celebrating the holidays around friend’s Christmas trees and sharing in their festivities.
In a 2012 poll that was conducted in the United States, almost half of all the people questioned said that they would like to skip Christmas altogether. I believe that the same would be true for people worldwide. Their number one reason: financial stress associated with gift giving. In fact, I do know a few people who have made the decision to make Christmas a non-event. One such person, a friend living in Australia, says that she loves no longer getting caught up in the frenzy of giving and doing and is ‘building up to some beautiful, creative quiet time’. Time to take a breather and recuperate from a busy enough year.
How about making a change? Here’s some different ways to enjoy the gift-giving season:
- Have a gift exchange. Instead of buying a gift for every niece and nephew, how about putting everyone’s name in a hat and buying a gift for the person whose name you’ve drawn? Set a spending cap so that no one feels that they have to outdo anyone else.
- Give a homemade gift. A homemade gift such as a batch of cookies in a nice basket with cellophane and a ribbon would be appreciated by anyone.
- Give a charitable donation in someone’s name. Even a small amount is appreciated and the amount is not shared with the recipient.
- Take a trip instead. How about doing away with wish lists, potential disappointments at not getting what one wants or resentment at feeling obligated to fulfill the wishes? Instead of many gifts, how about contributing money towards a family fund for something you can all enjoy together, like an experience or a trip?
In addition to the financial burden of overextending oneself through lavish gift giving, many adults find themselves taking on responsibilities they would rather not ‘ either by entertaining in one’s own home or by agreeing to spend time with others. How about a change in this department too? Instead of following tradition for tradition’s sake, think about what would be meaningful to you and your family. Is spending time with relatives exclusively what you all want or would you prefer to spend more time with family friends? Would it be more relaxing to plan a drop in on Christmas day, rather than having to extend yourself in the evening and then cleaning up until the early hours of the morning? How about having a potluck instead of putting out a smorgasbord of your own homemade goodies? Or agreeing to join certain relatives after dinner for dessert or drinks rather than enduring an entire evening when you’d rather be spending it at home with more immediate family?
My suggestion is to think about how you’d like to spend your holidays this year. Then, if you’re co-parenting, discuss this with your spouse. Consider what messages your children are being sent by maintaining traditions as you’ve always known them. Do they hear you grumbling about the same old traditions, or talking about how you are looking forward to time with others? Then, think about how you can set a different tone and precedents that will assure you uphold what’s important to you. If your children are older and you’re feeling angry, dissatisfied, resentful, overwhelmed or stressed rather than content, grateful and mostly relaxed, then bring your family together for a meeting to discuss what’s on your family’s wish list and how you can create change if needed. You may be surprised at the amazing ideas your children can come up with and you’ll be able to enjoy, rather than dread the holidays for years to come!