Christmas: more fun, less stuff

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Are you already stressing out about Christmas? I am, but not entirely for the same reasons you might be.

I love Christmas. I love the songs (I know, everyone hates them. But I love them). I love the snow, I love the warm spiced coffee and wine and, above all, I love Christmas parties. Buying presents is definitely a source of stress, especially in financially-not-so-great times, but I love giving presents, too.

Getting presents, however, makes Christmas stressful to me. No, I’m not an ungrateful little brat. It’s not that I don’t appreciate gifts. I usually love them. And of course I’m grateful for having thoughtful friends and family who get me presents. But I don’t like clutter. I don’t like having too much of something, and I don’t like feeling wasteful. Christmas excesses, in my view, should be limited to food and wine —not stuff.

For a number of years now, D and I have tried and failed to convince our families to do a small-presents or no-presents Christmas. To engage in celebrations that are a lot more about the time we spend together and less about the stuff we buy each other.

This year, my biggest source of stress is toys. We have a toddler now, and three sets of grandparents. And, as I’m sure you know, Grandparents love toys. I’m anticipating a bit of craziness, so I decided to get creative this year.

I won’t tell our family not to buy toys for our daughter. That would take away from the genuine enjoyment I know they derive from finding something cool for her. But I have decided to offer some other options, too, so that at least all the money and attention isn’t all spent on toys.

  • First, I have set up an RESP (Registered Education Savings Plan) for S. We hadn’t done it yet, and Christmas is the perfect opportunity to ask people who will be giving presents to S to consider donating any amount they want to her fund. Even better, this can become a family tradition used over the years, also for birthdays.
  • And second, I will casually mention that I would love Sophie’s gifts this year to be meaningful, and not necessarily objects: it would be great if she gets a trip to the museum of Nature with grandma, or a registration for music class, swimming lessons, etc. I would love Sophie to receive meaningful experiences, rather than gifts. These are, by the way, my favourite gifts to receive. Hint hint 😉

There’s a website called SoKind Registry where you can get lots of gift ideas along the lines of what I mention above. Below is a good list taken from their ideas page. I hope it will get you thinking about your own gift-giving and receiving for the holidays. And if you have any other ideas, please do share!

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Gifts of Time
and Skill

Lessons: art, cooking, language, guitar/piano/music, woodworking, knitting, canning, carpentry

Household help: organizing, cleaning, gardening, yard work, help with errands, repair work, sewing/tailoring, catering, house sitting, interior design help, landscaping/playscaping

Personal care: massage/bodywork, personal training, double-date night

Child care: babysitting, playdates, doula support hours, babyproofing, lactation consult

Pet care: dog walking, pet sitting

Career: résumé help, advice session, shadow opportunity

Family photography session

Gifts of
Experience

Entry passes/memberships: museum, local/national park, zoo/aquarium, gym/pool/rec center, climbing gym, spa/hot springs, campground, running/bike race, local CSA, rail pass, AAA

Event tickets: movie, concert, opera, play, Broadway show, comedy show, music festival, lecture series, sporting event

Classes/lessons: art, photography, cooking, sports, yoga, dance, music, kayaking, surfing, paddle boarding, scuba diving, fly fishing, jewelry making, letterpress, floral design, pottery, glass blowing, writing/journaling, summer camps

Adventures: skydiving, hot air ballooning, bungee jumping, ziplining, whale watching, deep-sea fishing

Outdoor pursuits: rafting, horseback riding, skiing/snowboarding, rock climbing, sailing, hang gliding, caving, camping, backyard camping

Tours: winery/brewery, farm/petting zoo, berry picking, historic/cultural site, scenic railroad, local/ethnic food, birding/wildflower/naturalist

Travel: contribution toward a dream vacation, airline miles, hotel points, city tours

Gifts of
Charity

Donations to your favorite charity

Volunteer hours for a local organization

Carbon offsets

Handmade
Gifts

Artwork/photography

Recipe book

Baked goods

Homemade meals

Homegrown fruits and vegetables

Spice mixes

Natural cleaning supplies

Homemade blanket or quilt

Knitted or crocheted items

Secondhand
or New Gifts

Household tools

Camping/sports gear

Commuter bike and/or accessories

Kitchen supplies

Gently used clothing

Board games

Secondhand or wooden toys

Gift Cards/
Funds

Locally owned restaurant/bar

Local bookstore

Home improvement store

Car sharing site

Music venue

Local music store

Contribution to a child’s college fund

Contribution fund toward family
vacation trip

Day-of-Event Help

Set-up and/or clean-up crew

Wedding organizer

Catering

Musicians

DJ

Day-of coordinator

Photographer

Videographer

Reception/Party site

Guest housing

Rehearsal dinner hosting

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2 thoughts on “Christmas: more fun, less stuff

  1. Yes that photo of S is terribly cute! Please tell me it’s from last year, it can’t be snowing in Ottawa yet?!
    I feel you all the way. We’ve been trying so hard to establish no present Christmas and birthdays, especially me. My family is onboard, we are not so big on presents anyway, we’d rather give presents when the opportunity is right (i.e., when we casually find something that we know a loved one would love, which can happen anytime of the year) and we make sure we spend hours on the phone during the holidays if we can’t be together.
    On J’s side it’s a completely different story. There HAS to be some present unwrapping, even if said present is something that will land in the thrift store pile before summer rolls around. It drives me crazy and it makes me sad. I don’t like waste, and simultaneously I feel like I’m being very ungrateful 😦
    I must say though that P is seriously lacking age appropriate toys and winter is getting me nervous (because we’ll be spending so much time indoors. There are a few toys I know would be well played with (a play kitchen, a garage, some music instrument or a doll), that said I’d love to source all of those second hand.
    I also wouldn’t mind a gym or art class session for the winter months, as far as experience goes! 🙂

  2. Hi A! Thanks for your comment. Yes, the picture is from last year 🙂
    I also should add that Sophie could certainly use one or two toys (fingers crossed for an easel!). This also brings up a good point: it´s great to get surprise gifts, but sometimes I really appreciate it when people simply ask: what does she need?

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