Dec 13, 2011

Thinking "Out-of-the-giftbox" this Holiday Season

Presents. The heart of the holiday?

When I was but a wee lass, all my friends and I would gather up at recess and compare notes about who got what for Christmas.  They'd rattle off long impressive lists of cool toys, the latest gadgets and stockings stuffed to the rim.  I half listened while I scrambled to find  something as equally awesome to contribute to the pile.


Falling short mostly. I even found myself seizing up the impressiveness of the presents on Xmas day itself in anticipation of that fateful recess.  How awful!  Not because I didn't get the biggest, best presents - but that my worldview was so distorted in the first place.  That ALL of our worldviews were so distorted - and dominated by STUFF and THINGS.   Was that the spirit of the season?   Our final takeaway? Ugh!

And that was a billion years ago.  Now, couple that materialistic sensibility with an economic downturn, and we are in serious trouble!  While we are being pummeled by corporate messages to buy, buy, buy, our pocketbooks are empty, empty, empty - and I can hardly fathom the pressure and stress that this creates for families.  That's allot to endure.  People are struggling.  Unemployed.  Afraid.  And yet they don't want to disappoint their loved ones, or let anyone down.  But this is a construct that we created and it is a construct that we can disassemble.  Let's mute those commercials! Toss out those ads. Avert our eyes from the aisles of holiday knickknacks - because if ever there was a time to be prudent, and downsize the "STUFF" - this is the time.  If ever there was a time to impart our values of togetherness, and love, and family as opposed to STUFF, this is the time.  So let's let's take this point in history to step on the breaks, regroup, and recapture and embody the true spirit of the season!

If I had just one wish for you, I would ask that you please, please refrain from overspending, overextending yourself, and going into debt for Christmas. Please don't get caught up in a buying frenzy.   It's not what your loved ones would want for you.  Be straightforward and honest about your limitations.  Exercise restraint.  There is no shame in setting boundaries.  You can make another choice!   Show your  appreciation and love through togetherness, not things. Take it as an opportunity to impart a deeper more meaningful lesson to the young folks.    I'm not saying eliminate ALL gifts ENTIRELY!  (Come on' now, I'm not a Grinch!)  I'm just saying, we can approach it in a different way.  We can be creative about the way we do it.  We can think out of the gift-box!

For example, how about:
  • Handmade gifts
  • Crafts from farmer's markets
  • Treasures from second hand stores, Craiglist
  • Volunteering as a family in a soup kitchen, giving back to the community
  • Collecting cans together, or helping the homeless
  • How about forgoing gifts completely and making a decision as a family about which deserving charity you will donate to. Together.  (Talk about teachable moment!)
  • Making family time - a walk, a trip to a park, watching a slide show of old family photos, telling stories around a fire...
  • Singing holiday songs 
  • Making tasty holiday treats together
  • Read stories out loud together
  • Coloring or making arts & crafts together (talk about making great memories)
  • Strengthen your community by opting to spend your dollars at local Mom & Pop shops instead of multinational corporations
  • Spend some time at a local nursing home, talking, listening, being (there's nothing like the gift of time and appreciation)  
  • Make holiday cookies and give them to a neighbor  (maybe someone you've even never spoken to before?!)
  • .................what else???
There's so many awesome things that we could do!  Have any other ideas?  I'd love to hear all of them!

Wishing you a beautiful holiday season filled with love, kindness and gratitude.



  1. Great alternate-gift ideas Annie! In this day of the 99%, it can be tough to give, give, give. At least in the material sense. Give with heart a little more and give with your wallet a bit less.
    Great post.

  2. Last year I was completely unemployed and completely broke, so I decided to hand draw some 8" x 10" portraits of my siblings. My mom always wanted to have be draw all her kids, (myself included) and my siblings always wanted me to draw them, so it took me a few months of secretly drawing, but they turned out great and they were loved!

    This year I decided that while I could spend a bunch of money of people, I'd rather get special gifts that were meaningful. I also wanted to stay out of the big stores (for the most part) so most of my stuff was actually bought off of Etsy and hand made.

    It takes a little more work to buy handmade and out of the box but it really pays off when you come up with some unique and unexpected gifts.

  3. I like handmade things way better because you put effort in, it's cheap and pretty. That's what I usually do for friends and family if I'm not able to afford some other nice gift. Great post Annie!

  4. So true.  And so well said.  Thank you David Lee.  <3

  5. I couldn't possibly think of a more wonderful, more meaningful present than handmade portraits.   As opposed to store-bought knick-knacks or gadgets, they will be
    cherished forever - and can even be passed down to future generations.   What an amazing gift! 

    Haven't heard of Etsy - I'll have to check it out!

    Thks so much for your comment.  :-)

  6. Some AMAZING ideas from:
     @ArmySisterof2 15 Dec at 01:03:

    "What I do is find cheap little boxes I have even taken blocks
    of wood. Wrapped them nice and pretty w/good ribbon and a poem of the

    Like: When you are feeling down need a smile look upon my lil
    gift Never knowing what it is but knowing it from the heart sending all
    my luv

    Another thing we have done is paint puzzle pieces and made pins
    or bracelets out of them Or some old cloth and bottons and made flower

    Lately taken old scrabble tiles and added them to hats Or
    headbands taken the cheapy stretch gloves added ruffles and other things

    My fav is take an old piece of wood like a 2x4 if can split it
    in 2 (1x4) sand it down paint it kinda make it weather if want.

    Add cloths pins painted a different color attach as many u want hang up for lists or car holder or to hold pictures"

  7. I know our family is having a hard time this Christmas season. Its my daughters first Christmas where she knows EXACTLY what she wants and I know I can't get it for her because its a $250 toy. Instead we're trying to explain that giving is better than receiving and that the holiday spirit is all about generosity and not just getting stuff.
    Hopefully it sinks in. It helps that we don't do the Santa thing in our house so she can't be let down by a fake man in a red suit.