They are already begging us to line up in the middle of the night or the crack of dawn to start buying gifts. I’ll freely admit to decades of massive present buying. No more.
When your children are young, it is as if you become possessed. It isn’t enough to buy them the things THEY want, you have to get them all the things YOU wanted when you were their age.
The problem is that they end up with too much. It’s like being served four ice cream desserts at once. Do you eat one while the others melt? Or just sample a bit of everything? Or eat it all and feel really sick?
Then there are all the other family members – parents, siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles. I do not come from a particularly big family but our holiday party included up to 40 people by the time my kids were in their late teens. Everyone brought a present for everyone else, even though there were people there I didn’t see from one year to the next.
Over the year, I spent a lot of time picking out presents or making them. I tried to really find something appropriate and I wanted to see the person open my present. One year, two or three people started passing out gifts and everyone began opening them as soon as they were presented.
In 20 minutes, the room looked like a trash dump with all the ribbons and wrapping paper. I couldn’t see anyone looking very pleased about anything. It was like watching a pie eating contest. The pies might be tasty but it was all too much.
As my old neighbor used to say, all hell flew into me. I was finished with this insanity. I stood up and asked for attention. I pointed to the hurricane of gifts and wrapping and said something like this: “I don’t know about the rest of you, but I think this has gone too far. I would like to suggest that since there are no young children in our family any more that we all stop exchanging presents at the party. Starting next year, I won’t be exchanging gifts with anyone but my parents and children. If you want to exchange presents with anyone, I hope you will do it another time. This party will just be a time for us to get together and socialize.”
They agreed and just like that, I was free! It has been wonderful not to buy or receive a bunch of stuff I couldn’t afford or didn’t want. I don’t face giant credit card bills in January. I can spend time baking cookies to share or making quilt tops for charity, if I want. I can donate money to the Food Bank or the Christmas Mother.
Best of all, the holidays are no longer a chore, a huge list of things to do that you feel you will never get through. I can enjoy the sound of the season on my radio and look at the twinkling lights in the neighborhood and at the mall – just in case I happen to stop by.