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!
Gifts of Time
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
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
Donations to your favorite charity
Volunteer hours for a local organization
Homegrown fruits and vegetables
Natural cleaning supplies
Homemade blanket or quilt
Knitted or crocheted items
or New Gifts
Commuter bike and/or accessories
Gently used clothing
Secondhand or wooden toys
Locally owned restaurant/bar
Home improvement store
Car sharing site
Local music store
Contribution to a child’s college fund
Contribution fund toward family
Set-up and/or clean-up crew
Rehearsal dinner hosting