All I Want for Christmas

For the past number of years, JP and I have bowed out of exchanging Christmas gifts with our families and close friends. It's not that we don't like giving gifts or we're really selfish -- JP and I both love giving gifts. I'm a gift giver by default. Its one of my love languages. I love seeing something in a store that reminds me of someone and spontaneously buying it for no special reason. Giving for no reason is something we both try to make a habit in our lives. Who needs a special reason to tell someone they were on your mind?

Our reasons for not exchanging gifts at Christmas are threefold.

1.) It's forced. In my mind, gift giving should always be a joyful thing.

I can't tell you how many people I've heard from this year (and every year) who are so stressed out because they have to buy gifts for "x" amount of people. They get frustrated trying to think of what to give that one person who is so hard to buy for. They dread getting out in the crowds. They moan and groan over how much money they had to drop, and proclaim the recipients had better be thankful.

Truly, it goes against everything Christmas is about. God gave us Jesus joyfully, willingly, without repentance. The angels sang and rejoiced over His birth. The wise men were honored and humbled to be able to give their gifts to a baby king. There was no grumbling. No stress.

Christmas time is automatically a (happily) hectic time of year for us. With so many families in town, it's busy, busy, busy all season long traveling from even to event. We are very happy to do that. We love being with our family. But we're not going to ruin the spirit of the season by getting grumpy over all the gifts we have to buy. Our families know we love them, even if we don't buy them gifts, and like I said before, we try to be spontaneous in our gift giving throughout the year.

2.) Our Children.

Kids can get so selfish at Christmas time. No matter how much you try to teach your children that Christmas isn't about gifts or Santa, they're still going to look forward to the presents the most every year.

In the beginning we even tried to ban our parents from buying the girls Christmas (and birthday) gifts. We simply don't want that to be their focus at Christmas, and we certainly dont want them to feel they deserve gifts just because it's Christmas. We want them to associate Christmas with Jesus and spending time with our families, the greatest gifts of all.

We realized very quickly that banning gifts was a futile effort! It's just not fair to ask a grandparent to withhold from their grandchild. They love giving to them, and when they do, it carries none of the negative, stressful situations described in reason #1. So our girls still receive Christmas gifts, just not from us. And we try very hard to make sure our girls know these gifts are not expected, but always an extreme blessing.

3.) Our Finances. This is the very last, and least, reason.

Winter is the slow season in the remodeling industry, so this time of year is usually pretty tight anyhow. This year we are also closing on a new house which needs some repairs before we can move in. We see no reason to add to that by feeling like we have to buy gifts for everybody, too.

We do have one gift we've made a tradition of giving to our families, so it's not like we do nothing. And we LOVE playing the dice game, too (you know, the one where if you roll doubles, you get to pick a $5 gift from the pile, etc.).

But even if finances were no issue at all, I think we'd still skip out on gift exchanges for reasons #1 & #2.

So tell me, what do you think?

Do you get stressed out over gift giving? Do you wish you could just spend Christmas with family and not have to worry about the gift part? Or do you relish the opportunity to get out and shop? Is it your favorite part? Do you think we have gone overboard? BE HONEST! I want to know!

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Karen Wall said...

I love giving gifts too! It never stresses me out, but that is probably b/c I shop for Christmas gifts all year long. When I see something that is perfect for someone I just buy it then and there. This helps with the finances as well, so it is not a big hit all in one month. Also, my brother and I only buy for the kiddos and my friends and I all draw names and have a price limit. One of my favorite things about this time of year is the giving, but I agree with you, that if it feels forced or stressful you should not do it. So, anyway that's how we roll at Christmas time...

Lori said...

I too love to give! Yes, Christmas is hectic - so we stopped doing gifts to family (siblings, etc.) and only focus on the kids! We don't go overboard, but they get their fair share! We do make Christmas gifts for friends or employees (when we had them!). We use our resources around us and make them! For a few years we made Christmas ornaments with light bulbs. (burnt out light bulbs from the previous year) I painted them and attached a hook. One year was just a simple design written around the edge of it - another year it was turned into a Rudolph! And this year, we made wooden Nativities! Ask your Mom - in law about it! She got one!!

All in all - I love to shop and I love to give, but at Christmas it seems too crazy! I tired Black Friday for the first time this year and will probably never do it again!

Stephanie Balvin said...

We struggle with this as well. However, I LOVE to get out in the stores and buy for friends and family. I try to listen all year to little things they say so I can find them the perfect gift.
I don't get burned out with the shopping and all, I get stressed about the pressure to be at all these Christmas parties and things. It wears my kids down and of course then it wears me down. We are running running running. I wish people could get together at different times of the year, not just Christmas.
We talk a lot at present opening time about WHY we give gifts. We talk about the representation of Jesus' giving us the ultimate gift. Truly I believe that Chirstmas is about giving, not receiving, so we try to have our children give back as well. They need to make or save their money to give to someone or a charity. We made little baggies for children without toothbrushes and toothpaste in Guatemala this year. They had to package it all up. We spend a great deal of time reading the Christmas story from the Bible and praying for those in need.
I look forward to the day what we go to the shelter and serve people or feed my starving children. For now it's all teaching and talking. I think they are starting to understand.
Another new lesson this year was receiving with a grateful heart. I didn't expect that they wouldn't say thank you, but it was a huge lesson when they received something that they already had or didn't really want to be joyful and grateful for it. I am glad we had this opportunity to teach them that. I assumed it wasn't an issue for they usually say thank you to us, but to others it was helpful.
I say do what is best for your family.
Brenton tells the kids we don't get them gifts because we have to, we get them because we love them and love to see them smile. Just as Jesus gave us the gift.

Priya said...

I understand what you are saying. My family never really did gifts growing up because we weren't christian. My mom would get something small for my brother and i, usually because our friends would receive gifts. I also don't regularly do gifts with "close friends". If I find something that I think they would like (around christmas time), i may actually buy it for them. But I don't stress out about having to buy something for everyone. Mike's family does "wish lists" so that makes it easy for us. And although every year i ask myself, why am i buying stuff for them that's on their list, and vice versa, when I could just get the stuff I need myself, every year I always enjoy opening the gifts together. My family started a new tradition a few years ago that involved going to a new, fairly nice restaurant every year instead of doing gifts, etc. But now that my brother has kids and we have one along the way we decided this year we needed to incorporate the kids in our tradition. :-) So we decided that every year we will pick a new country to "celebrate" and learn about, cook the food, do something fun for the kids, and then find an organization in the country that has a need and give something to them instead of each other. This year was our Mexican fiesta! But, it is hard not to get something small for the kids, so they did get a couple gifts from each of us. :-)

Bron and Jenda said...

I understand where you're coming from. After this Christmas I realized we will have to practice thankfulness all year long so that it is second nature at Christmas and birthdays. It is also really stressful finding the time to get the gifts. But I've always found it's worth it because giving is such a joy! We set a major budget this year and I prayed what we could get people for less money that would still be a blessing.

I can tell you something one of my friends does. (that we might end up doing as we add numbers to the family!) She gives each kid 3 gifts, like the wisemen gave Jesus only 3 gifts. one gift is something the child wants (a toy, etc), the second gift is something practical (like new shoes or new bedsheets, etc), and the third gift is something that will bring them closer to Jesus (like a book, or video, or when they're older a summer mission trip or something). Maybe that's something that would fit your family better!