Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Christmas is coming

Before I get started today - I want you to know that I'm a very happy person and have an extremely positive outlook on life. I just have a different outlook on some aspects of life than others do and I'm quite happy to put traditions in the drawer and move on.

So Christmas is coming - it's just over two weeks away. Will there be hustle and bustle in our house? Are we out there madly shopping for gifts? No. Am I sad? Absolutely NOT! In fact, I'm feeling just the opposite. I'm thrilled. Zero stress, zero commitments, zero Christmas lists to make.

Here's a wee bit of background in case you think I'm heartless. I moved away from home when I was 17. I think I spent the following Christmas with my family (parents and two brothers) and probably the next one as well since one brother got married on Christmas Eve. There might have been one more Christmas in there, but I lived 3,000 KM away, had no money, and it was a long bus ride.

I do remember Christmases when we were kids, where one of my Mom's siblings and all their kids would get together. I did spend some great Christmas with my ex's family in Quebec. We did celebrate Christmas when M was at home. But now she lives over 4,000 KM away, so it's just the two of us and the girls. We long ago dispensed giving gifts to family members. They're so far away - costs a fortune to mail and what do you buy for someone you barely see? It was a total waste of time and money so we stopped that eons ago.

I see so many people running around like mad trying to find just the right gift for someone. Why? Isn't our life stressful enough? Why not just suggest that you don't exchange gifts anymore. People have a tendency to buy whatever they need/want when they see it rather than wait for Christmas. And how many boxes of chocolates, candles, and perfume/lotion gift sets does one household need? Most of them get regifted (except maybe the chocolates!). I don't see the point in all that.

DH and I now spend Christmas Day going to a movie (it's a big deal for a lot of people - the theaters are packed!). We splurge for the VIP experience and have dinner or lunch there. We do cook a simple Christmas dinner at some point during the holidays (OK - DH does the cooking) and that's about it. Nice and simple. No stress, no credit card bills in January that we're going to regret. And we do something that we enjoy.

People seem to love the stress - baking for an entire month before and cleaning their house. They love to decorate to the nines. They seem to love it or at least I hope they love it because it's a lot of work and a lot of expense.

It's OK to say - "let's not exchange gifts" or "let's set a value" or "let's do something simple this year". It's PERFECTLY OK.

But if you really want to give someone a gift, then here are some ideas so you don't end up at the last minute buying chocolates and candles.

1. Buy them a subscription (or pay for an existing one) for one year or whatever you can afford. This might be a magazine subscription (yes some of them still exist). Buy them a subscription to a software package - a budding photographer might want Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom. If they like to watch TV or movies - then how about Netflix or Apple TV. For a wedding gift for my brother, I bought them a bouquet of fresh flowers once a month for a year. Get creative - I'm sure there's something out there with a subscription base that your loved ones would want. And put that on your Christmas list as well.

2. Make a donation in their name to their favorite charity. Here's a great story - I'm not sure that it's true, but it's a great story and might be something that your family would want to do instead of gifts.

3. Buy (or make) them a set of litterless grocery bags. I believe that most grocery stores have reusable bags that you can buy. I LOVE the ones from Longo's that are actually folding boxes. They are the BEST and they last forever. I did a tutorial on making the reusable produce bags. We use them all the time at our house and they're the best. Very inexpensive.

4. Buy them a service. Could be a manicure, could be a pedicure, could be a massage, could be housecleaning. It could be something for their yard - yard service for a year. The options are endless in this category.

5. Give them your TIME. Yep - you may offer to do a service for them - i.e. if you're a hairdresser, you could give them free haircuts for the year or whatever you wish. Maybe - it's as simple as making a date to have coffee. Give them a gift card to the local coffee shop and then make a date to share that card with them. Sometimes, our TIME is the most precious gift you can give someone. Offer to babysit, dog sit (does anyone want to take Murphy for a day or two? - just kidding!)

6. Plan a family trip or outing instead of presents. It depends on your budget and your family - but there are loads of things you could do. Make planning part of the present. Spend Christmas Day planning what and where you want to go. Perhaps you devise a system before Christmas to put your ideas in a basket or envelopes that you open on Christmas Day and that becomes the basis for your trip/outing. Great dinner conversation while you plan.

7. Gift the gift of knowledge and experience. Why not put your best advice in an envelope and have everyone open on Christmas Day? I know it's a challenge to take advice from our elders because we know best. But I remember my Grandfather gave me the best advice ever. I don't even remember how old I was, but he told me "Even if you're lost, look like you know where you're going." That piece of advice has stuck with me all these years and trust me - there are man times, whether I'm teaching a class, riding my bike, driving my car or just in a conversation - I try very hard to make like I know where I'm going (confidence in case you didn't get that) even if I have no clue where I am or what to do next. and you know what? It has always worked out!

8. Buy one large thing for the family. This again requires some planning - so again - use the envelope system. Have each member write down the item that they think the family needs the most and why. It becomes a GREAT opening for family discussions about values and money and a whole lot of other lessons in there. We MUST stop focusing on buying material things.

9. Give them a picture book. I'm referring to those books that you make yourself from pictures you've taken over the year. There are many services out there and we all have cameras in our phones and we rarely print out the pictures - why not make a book (even if it is for yourself) of some of those pictures so you can really enjoy them. These are the best! They take time  - don't' wait until the last minute. I use Blurb, but there are loads of other ones out there.

10. If you're hosting a party, ask the guests to bring food for the Food Bank instead of chocolates and candles!

Hmmm - I can't think of anything else at the moment. That was a lot of thinking.

Here's a couple of pointers about wrapping paper. DO NOT USE IT. Here's an article with shocking statistics about wrapping paper and other Christmas waste.   There are loads of other ways to wrap a gift other than using Christmas wrapping paper.

1. Use an envelope (that can be easily recycled) for smaller things. Yes - it doesn't look as glamorous under the tree - get over it.
2. Use reusable gift bags. Here are some large ones that I made for each family member when M was home. A friend told me that each family member (and the children are all adults) has a bag. No name on it. As the gifts come in, Mom and Dad are responsible to put the unwrapped gift in the appropriate bag. Then on Christmas Day, one at a time and taking turns, they reach in the bag and pull out one item until all bags are empty. A SUPER great idea.

Large reusable gift bag
Or you can make these quick and easy small gift bags. I have a pattern for these or you can find online. If you have a serger, they are done in mere minutes. They can also be done on a sewing machine. They are RESUSEALBE.

Reuseable gift bags

Reusable gift bags

3. Use gift boxes and reuse them the following year. I found a nice set of nesting boxes and we've used those over and over again.

4. If the item is large - hide it in the garage or a closet and create a treasure hunt for the recipient to find the gift. No need to use huge gobs of wrapping paper to wrap it.

5. Use brown paper and decorate that with stamps and paint. This is a great pre-Christmas activity for children. I did this for M and one year, she treasured the wrapping way more than she did the gift inside!

I'm sure there are way more ideas, but you get the idea here.

So - if your Christmas preparations are stressing you out or making you change your entire routine to fit in all the extra stuff you have to do, then I'd suggest that you have a serious chat with your family, your friends and yourself. What can you do to simply Christmas? What can you do to make it FUN? What can you do to bring back the spirit of Christmas (not the Christmas that the marketing firms of each and every company out there is trying to sell you, but the Christmas of having fun with family and friends)?

On that note, I'm out of here. It's a CLEAN-UP day and I'm so excited to get started.

Have a super day!!!!



  1. Two years ago, I started a new holiday tradition. As my family arrived, I had a basket on the table in the front hall. All phones or video games had to be left in the basket. I had gotten out all the old board games and everyone had to play. We had a riot! The kids hadn't seen some of the games before and grandpa had never seen the card game ENO before. The grandkids taught him the rules (slightly adjusted) and away we went. I think everyone was sad when we had to clear off the dining table, so I could serve dinner. My daughter was amazed that in the car on their way home, it was the only thing that the kids talked about. They relived all the funny parts of the game playing all the way home. Needless to say we repeated this last year and I already have my basket handy for this year. What I found to be the funniest, was that I only caught my son-in-law trying to get his phone. He swore that it was just to take some pictures, so we made sure that was all he did with it. Last year he brought his camera so there was no doubt as to what his intensions were.

    1. OMG --- that is just the BEST!!!! It's so true - so easy to just turn on the phone and get engaged with someone or something that isn't in the room. I bet they're all looking forward to putting their phones in the basket!!! Your grandchildren are going to have some amazing memories of Christmas! Have a Merry Christmas!!!

  2. Wonderful missive on the materialism of this century! I am 58. When I was 14, there were enough people in my big family that we switched to drawing names. So each person gifts only to 1 person. We now live in 4 states and have continued this with the next generation. It keeps us connected. I enjoy this as I make many of the gifts we give (this year a quilt for my nephew, a knitted afghan and scarf for his SO, I purchased a few sweatshirts and a pair of slippers for each and we will donate a water well through Compassion International in their names).

    Hubster's family drew names for years...and then one Christmas Eve, many came to me (why me?) and told me they wanted to stop. So I announced this comment and someone called for a vote. NO MORE! Such a relief to us.

    Hubster and I have been married 39 years so this is our 40th Christmas. We stopped gift giving (for ANY occasion) probably 15 years ago? If we see something we KNOW the other will love, we will get it but otherwise, no gifts. As you noted, we prefer our money for experiences/travel/fun! This year we are going to our college football team's Bowl game (a big deal in the USA). It's our only travel vacation this year-interestingly enough.

    I have some wrapping paper because sometimes I have to ship the family gifts and it's just easier-I know, a cop out. If I don't have to ship, it's reusable bags for this girl!

    1. Elle--- that's so exciting to hear I'm not the only one. Oh yes - I know about college football - DH watches a lot of it! It blows my mind whenever I see (in person) how huge the stadiums are. Unbelievable. Way to go - making your own memories. I love it!!!