Give Up The Gifts

Old black and white photographs.

Can we just admit that we don’t need the gifts? C’mon… say it with me, “I do not need to buy presents.”

A few years ago my side of the family decided to end the gift-giving dance. It got to the point where I was giving someone a $50 gift card so that one person could give me a $50 gift card. When the nieces and nephews were little, it made sorta sense. But eventually we were just passing around plastic cards.

Not too long after that we also stopped doing it with my in-laws.

What we do now is pretty simple:

My kids get presents. Santa brings one thing that is one their list. I am so lucky because the things my kids have asked for are lovely, simple and make my heart happy. I like to think it has something to do with how we are raising them. On the last letter to Santa, my daughter asked for Rockets candy and a lollipop. We talk about how Santa is about kindness, joy, magic and sharing.

We get them gifts, but it’s limited too. All our gifts are thrift finds! Yes, rarely is anything new, though sometimes we score and find new-at-the-thrift-store. This year’s thrift finds, for my daughter, is an unopened Crayola metallic “learn how to draw” set, and for my son we found a Green Toy truck and trailer and some freebie books the library was passing out all about trains, bikes and horses. I will also be giving her my old, hand-me-down stuffed animal walruses. We have supported local artists before, as well. In the past, if we do go with a handmade, artisanal gift, we ask the artist if they can make, or sew, the items out of repurposed materials.

Stockings are super simple: one fair-trade, organic chocolate (often Alter Eco or Camino), new bamboo toothbrush, and sometimes new underwear and socks which are ethically-sourced and organic cotton. We love the socks and underwear from WearPact and Fallowfield Kids.

My partner. Honest, we don’t get anything for each other. I give him a chocolate and some PUR gum. We usually end up going out for a really nice date to celebrate just being happy. There have been years he has received gifts from me, and vice versa, but normally, it’s nothing. Last year he had been pining for a denim jacket and I found one at a consignment shop. Score!

My in-laws and my parents. They do so much for us and for our kids. We are so lucky. So we give them locally-based gifts. Think ‘mom and pop’ breakfast joint gift certificates or gift cards to a local movie house. Something to get them out, have fun, but support our local economy.

Others. There are some people I want to thank for all their hard work over the year. Teachers, my awesome mail man, the proprietors of some stores that I frequent a lot. I make a really easy homemade Irish cream. I use old mason jars I find at the thrift store that I sanitize in my dishwasher. The recipe is easy, by the way, and really doesn’t take a lot of waste either. It’s a basically 1 cup of brewed coffee (fair trade and organic), 1 cup of cream, 1 can of condensed cream and 1/2 a cup of good quality, Canadian whiskey. Blend and pour and pass on joy.

How simple is that? A couple things for the kids. Gum for the hubby. Two local business certificates for the grandparents. Homemade Irish cream. Ding dong merrily on high!

Here’s what we do over the holidays to make them brilliant:

  • bake cookies and a lot of them
  • buy food goods for Hope House
  • watch so many movies
  • toboggan with cousins
  • walks in nature
  • cut down a Christmas tree (which we always pack our own cups to enjoy the complimentary apple cider)
  • make two wreaths with Grandma using bits from the forest floor

That’s it! My mother-in-law said the other day to me that she thought it was great that I kept Christmas small for the kids from the beginning. She expressed that she felt it set them up for gratitude and patience as they aged. And I kid you not, a few hours before I put the finishing touches on this post, my kids told me again that all they want from Santa is: a chocolate bar, a lollipop and to help others (and she added an Elsa doll). I am the proudest mom! So Santa will make sure to get a beautiful, lovely, velvety, fair-trade, organic chocolate (preferably in a compostable wrapper) and a locally-made confectionary pop. I already found Elsa (and Anna) on Kijiji. SCORE!

Do you know how much money I save? A lot! But it’s not about saving money, but rather, not wasting it needlessly. And further, about using it for other avenues like donations and needy causes. Bring season’s best to others this yuletide with some of these ideas:

  • Offset your carbon emissions as a family for your year’s consumption or for a trip you might do.
  • Support local food banks by doing a grocery run for much-needed items.
  • Make a donation to a women’s or family shelter
  • Extend a lending hand by donating blood at a blood bank or helping cook at a group home

Do you know how little stress I carry? None! From about October until the end of November I really only flyer-flip so I can pick up my homemade Irish cream ingredients at a steal. I start looking for mason jars at thrift stores and I grab the small amount of gifts I need early (barely any) so that by the beginning of December I can just focus on festive family fun and giving back to the community. This year I believe my daughter is old enough that she can come with me to volunteer. They have both come with me to shop for, and donate to the various shelters and organization supporting our community.

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think so; I feel so good doing Christmas this way. And as always, it’s easy on the planet, easy to do, and so easy on your pocketbook. So say it with me, “I will give up the gift!” Cheers to a new tradition of, well, nothing but feel-goods.

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