“Love is always bestowed as a gift – freely, willingly and without expectation. We don’t love to be loved; we love to love.” – Leo Buscagia
Gifts are a big part of Christmas tradition. But gone are the days when most people give or receive a single token gift. It’s a sliding scale, but in many families, the chunk of Christmas dedicated to gifts is now enormous and can be extremely stressful. It can make the festive season quite damaging for your wellbeing.
So, I put it to you… could you do a Christmas without gifts? A big change for some, yes, but what are actually the benefits of gifting? What is its real value? Are the positives of gift giving more numerous than the negatives? Is it all worth the stress and hours spent sifting through deals online or getting caught up with the herd at your nearest shopping centre
What might a gift-free Christmas do for you?
1. ‘Stuff’ is great, but it is not love
Love can be expressed in many ways. Of course, if you know someone well enough to buy them the perfect present, one that will reflect your relationship with them, then yes, a show of love and connection gift-giving may well be. However, this pressure to show love and knowledge through gift-giving can also be quite uncomfortable. The increasingly commercial world in which we live has many of us convinced that, at Christmas, presents are the best way to show affection to others. This is not true. The giving of your time, energy, effort and attention can be just as much a show of love.
2. Stress and Expectation
A few years ago now, my wife and I were beginning to find the whole ‘gift debacle’ around Christmas, just a bit too much. We were attempting to trump the gifts we had given everyone the year before. The thing is, this ‘must be better than last year’ attitude was leading towards every member of our extended family going home with a lot of expensive rubbish that they neither asked for nor really had a use for. Not only could we not afford to buy everyone gifts that they didn’t really want, but we also didn’t want to be given a load of stuff we’d feel guilty about not using.
We realised that our Christmas was being drowned by expectation and that our wellbeing was being pummelled a little. And so, since then, we have had a gift-free Christmas. We bought no gifts, we received no gifts, and we loved it. The first year we did it was the least stressful, most mindful December either of us could remember having.
3. The Money
Financial wellbeing is, unsurprisingly, quite a significant worry this year. Gift buying can get expensive. There is so much pressure on all of us to spend, spend, spend in December. By agreeing not to spend a huge amount of cash on one another you are not only saving money yourself, but being mindful of the emotional and financial stress it may have on other members of your family and friendship groups.
4. What is Christmas Really About?
This decision really helped us to focus on and enjoy the other elements of Christmas celebrations; connection, togetherness… food! There are no children in our family currently, which we have recognised as an opportunity to use the time of year as a time of rest. The year is long, and without the madness and flurry of gift-giving Christmas has become much calmer and more chilled out.
5. New Traditions
The space in your Christmas Day usually reserved for present opening can now be used for something else. In my family, for example, we each bring an obscure board game to teach to the room. Perhaps you could start a new, communal tradition? This could be anything from a walk around the neighbourhood to finishing a jigsaw, a biscuit decorating contest to a movie screening.
Christmas is about so much more than stuff. It was quite a dramatic move to remove presents from our Christmas. Ultimately, we found it a liberating, and much more relaxed experience than it ever had been before. If you have been feeling overwhelmed by the festive season in recent years, I can recommend this most freeing of alterations.
By Chris Thomson
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