Gift-giving blues this Christmas

It’s no secret I love the holidays (I mean, I did start a website called It’s Christmas 365).

But gift-giving is another story.

As I write this – a mere two days before my family exchanges gifts – I’ve not purchased one gift.

It isn’t that I’m in a frumpy Christmas mood.

Quite the opposite: This probably ranks among my favorite holiday seasons in recent memory.

I dislike the transactional feel of buying gifts – as though, we must buy gifts simply because that is what one does at this time of year.

I’ve never been one to hop into Target or Macy’s or go on Amazon to buy everything. I’ve made such an effort to think local – not necessarily small, but local. For instance, I usually give someone Eat’n Park gift cards. Last year, I gifted my parents a weekend stay at the Sheraton hotel on Erie’s Bayfront.

I like the gift of experience, but my family members don’t seem to be interested in those things. Several years ago, I bought my parents tickets to Kennywood Park. They’d been saying how they hadn’t been there, so I thought it would be great. My mom loved it when she opened it on Christmas Eve.

Fast forward to the summer and I kept asking when they were going. Mid-August rolled around and the tickets hadn’t been used. Someone on Facebook was seeking tickets to the park and I asked my mom if I could have them back to give them to someone who would use them.

My mother’s idea of gift-giving is very transactional: buy things people need. I’m sure I’ll get jeans because she thinks I need them, for example.

I encourage her to be creative. She explains how she’s too busy all month getting ready for one night that she doesn’t have time.

“So let’s change how we do Christmas,” I say. But that’s quickly nixed because she wants to continue the same idea of traditions she has known forever.

It’s hard to change mindsets – especially when people yearn for “the good ol’ days” (whatever those mean for people).

I’d prefer much more of a seasonal celebration – taking in the sights and sounds of events and activities that happen during November and December.

My mom, on the other hand, is a firm believer in Christmas Eve and Christmas Day being this huge production. She loves the entire season, but can’t see beyond Dec. 24-25.

A friend explained to me his family’s list-sharing experience, where they offer lists of items each of them want. So each family member goes and buys things from that list. There’s no element of surprise or room for creativity. While some of the items are useful, I’m hard-pressed to think opening many of the items on his family’s lists would be exciting.

Other friends have shared similar sentiments with me about their families. I recently told a friend (and fellow Christmas enthusiast) that I hadn’t started shopping. He was shocked, but when I explained why, he understood and then offered his own examples of family members buying practical gifts.

Not to turn this into a damn the corporations! post, but … big business wins when we believe the only way to celebrate Christmas is with gifts.

The gift-giving aspect isn’t what my Christmas is about. My Christmas is about spending time with family and friends, making memories, enjoying anything with peppermint in it!

And it isn’t that I dislike giving gifts. I buy gifts for some friends, getting them things I think they’d like. I don’t buy them socks (well, I did buy a friend socks this year, but they’re funny) or jeans.

If I was even the slightest bit crafty, I would make things for people.

Gifts certainly are a great way to show affection, respect, thanks to those we care about. Gifts can be small and inexpensive or whatever we want them to be.

It all goes back to the Grinch: “He puzzled and puzzled till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. Maybe Christmas, he thought…doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more!”

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