No gifts this year…

My husband and I haven’t really “celebrated Christmas” since we’ve been married. We haven’t put up a tree, haven’t given gifts. There has been no caroling in the neighborhood, or killer snowball fights. Now granted, we don’t have any kids yet, so I know what you’re thinking…the killer snowball fights are around the corner! 🙂

When I was still in elementary school, my mother sat down with me on the back of the green tractor in front of the barn. I even remember what I was wearing–a colorful striped shirt with streamer barretts.

“Those things your brother heard at school about Santa are true,” she told me.
“But where do all the presents come from?” I asked.
“We buy them for you.”
“You mean, you have to buy the presents?  They aren’t free?”
Suddenly, all the magic dissipated. My parents worked hard for their money and used that money to buy us gifts. I was so touched, and felt so guilty, I started crying.

Even as a 7-year-old kid, I thought something about the whole process was wrong. As an adult, as much as I don’t want to come off sounding like Scrooge…

Why do I need six gifts or ten or expect to get one from everyone I know or see during the holiday season? It doesn’t seem logical, and it doesn’t seem fair. It seems selfish and greedy from the wanters point of view and imposing and inconvenient from the givers. 

When we dated, I distinctly remember my man asking what I wanted for my birthday, which landed right before Christmas. I told him I did need a pair of tennis shoes, so he took me to buy them. I liked two pair, one for $60 and one for $80. I remember thinking that was terribly expensive for a pair of shoes and I couldn’t ask him to pay that much money for something that I wanted. I bought the $60 pair myself and put the others back. He kept saying, “But it’s your birthday.”  I didn’t want him to think I was dating him for his money. I liked him, not the $80 pair of shoes.

So, that Christmas, he gingerly asked, “What do you want for Christmas?”
To which I replied, “I’m just not into gifts. I don’t need anything. I have you.

Our first married Christmas, we did the normal family get-together gift exchange.

The second Christmas, I had us escape out-of-town. We spent four days over an open fire in a cabin in a Virginia state park and ate homemade oatmeal with milk every morning for breakfast. There was no cell phone service, no internet. We read and did crossword puzzles and woke up at 2 in the morning to watch the lunar eclipse from the glass pane window. It was pitch dark out in the middle of the woods and pure magic.

This year, there will again be the family get-togethers but we decided not to do any gifting. We sent out “the email” and even as my husband went to press send, I asked, “Wait! Should we change it up and make it sound more friendly? Less scrooge-like?”

It said, “Jenn and I aren’t doing Christmas this year. We aren’t giving any gifts and we don’t want any.”

I started laughing. “That sounds horrible! We have to make it sound nicer than that!”

I feel like a Scrooge because of what other people will think of me. But I don’t feel like a Scrooge if I take everyone else out of the equation. I feel like what we’re doing is right–for us at least. We don’t need anything and we don’t want to spend the small amount of time we get together fighting the masses for the “perfect, thoughtful” gift. I just won’t be a part of it.

Why do we need more than one gift, no matter the holiday? Why do we need gifts at all?

(I’d rather spend time with people I like, sitting around talking, cracking pecans, eating and drinking than unwrapping a whole bunch of stuff. It’s just stuff! That’s the best part about tradition. You’re always free to start another one.)

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30 responses to “No gifts this year…

  1. I absolutely love this post. Your sentiments are spot on and I bet a vast majority of people reading this wish they had the courage to do it too. My husband and I were only talking about this the other day and we said that if we were sans kids were would be completely doing as you are. We have no need for anything. As it turns out Mr G has bought me two apple trees this year and I love them, but as for ‘stuff’ I’m trying to get RID of it, I don’t need or want more! My daughter on the other hand would divorce me on the spot if I said no presents; she is still pretty materialistic and she’s 10. I did feel sad to read of your experience at the age of 7; it would seem you came into the world a wise soul to be able to put your own feelings aside at such a young age. All power to you and have a wonderful season with your loved ones 🙂

    • I cannot thank you enough! I was so hesitant about saying it out loud because I know people judge. But it is the truth. My truth, anyway. We’re trying to get rid of stuff too. Lord knows, I don’t want any more. ha! But the apple trees, now that is a nice little gift. You’ll have so many one day, you’ll have to give them away! 🙂
      And the realization of Santa and his presents mainly gives me a dilemma about what to tell my own kids. I was so upset, and my mother says she doesn’t even remember it! ha!
      Happy Holidays! Thanks for reading! And thanks for striving for zero waste too. I’m so proud of you!! We’re in this together.

  2. I totally agree with you! I have thought this for years and years now!!! Of course I have children so it is a little different…..but they are grown now so Wes and I are starting to do the “Christmas thing” less and less. We are not putting up a tree for the first time this year; and the only thing my boy are getting are a stocking filled with personal hygiene things and a check with some cash. We also bought for my Nieces and that’s it. We didn’t buy for each other. We haven’t exchanged gifts in years. My husband and a lot of my friends call me Scrooge…..because I absolutely hate how commercial everything about Christmas has become. I just feel that Christmas should be more like Thanksgiving, Families getting together, talking and spending time together over a nice meal. Giving and getting is not the reason for the Season…….Jesus is the reason for the Season.

    • Hope! Girl, how the heck are you? We need to call and catch up! Thanks so much for reading my blog. So, I’m not alone! I don’t like the commercialization either. “More like Thanksgiving.” You hit the nail on the head! That would be wonderful. And everyone likes Thanksgiving.

  3. Hi Jennifer,
    Good for you and Matt, it is the same for me and my hubby, Carl.
    But that is mostly because we are now “empty nesters”, I totally believe in Christmas and all it entails; but the presents (in my family) were always given to children only, and when they reached that age when they did not believe in Santa, we just let them pick one or two things they wanted and called it a day. The way I look at it you only doing for a period of time in their life, and then… come the grandchildren and you start all over again. LOL!

    • Marcia! Those precious grandbabies will get you every time! But I think being a grandparent is a special bond all it’s own. I like that your family tried to keep it focused. I know it’s hard with the little ones because you remember your own Christmases as a child. The economy is very different than when I was a kid. It’s so scary out there now.

  4. Jennifer, a few days ago I wrote this post about how I miss Polish traditional Christmas and how I’ve grown to dislike commercialized American Christmas.
    Feel free to read it:

    My intention wasn’t to critisize America and it’s culture but to show how totally different it is in other countries. We (as Poles) are not that focused on giving, reciving gifts or showing off our decorated houses and christmas trees.
    Every single year when we go to our in-laws for Christmas I feel really bad, because we do not have credit cards and we do not spend more then we earn. So, sometimes we just do not have much money left to buy everybody a gift (it’s like for 10 people). So we just don’t buy them, but the rest of the family spend much more than they actually can afford just to buy a buch of unnecessary things…, just to have as many gifts as they can pack under that tree… . I just hate it!!!

    This year we do not plan to exchange gifts either, but I know that my in-laws will bring something with them… and again I’ll feel like an ass because we do not have anything!

    I really can’t wait for Christmas like the one you had, just escape from all of it, or just stay at home but nobody else beside me, my husband and babies!

    Hugs from my corner!

    • I missed that post, Polish mom photographer! I hate it when I miss your posts. Sometimes, I go to your page just to make sure I’m not missing anything from my email! 🙂 I’ll go look at it.
      You have such good stuff written on there!
      Please don’t feel bad honey for not buying all those gifts for everyone. That’s the culture they’ve grown-up in but it’s not anything to aspire to. It’s selfish for them to “expect” a gift at all. It’s just tradition. All this show-off crap and “Look how big my house is” is for the birds. Most of those people are in horrible debt but would never let you know it. You two are the smart ones, living frugal and paying your bills on time and saving for a rainy day. There’s no need to spend a bunch of money on things people aren’t going to use or like anyway. Bring some of your wonderful food to the get-together. That can be your gift, and that’s enough. It took time and effort, much more so than buying a bunch of stuff from the store. And it’s Polish and different and delicious, and from the heart.
      Oh, I wish there were more people like you out there in this world. When you go this year, and they’re shoveling around those gifts, don’t let yourself feel like an ass. Feel like the smart one. And while you’re standing there smiling, imagine the year when it’s just the four of you at home, eating Polish food and being happy! I’ll be thinking of you. 🙂

      • Don’t feel bad about that post. It’s not on my blog, anyway. It’s on World Moms Blog I am member of.

        You know, I’m planning to cook something Polish this year, but will see if I can handle preparing so many dishes. I think I’ve planned too much. I just want everybody to be happy. Will see how it goes. I wish to go to Poland for a Christmas in a future. Miss my family and the tradions especially around Christmas time. And you’re right I shouldn’t care that much about what people do and how they do it but it just how I am. Can’t help myslef 😉
        I think I just need to get use to all of it if I don’t want to go crazy. lol

        Anyway, thank you for such a kind words about me and my blog. I really appreciate it and I am so happy we have found each other.

  5. Oh Jenn how I miss you for so many reasons.. It is true that we were only close for those years in middle school and part of high but you have always seen life through different glasses! Red ones, I remember! We barely put up a tree this year and we are teaching our children much different that what my husband and I were raised. We believe in togetherness and finding ways and talking about how we can better ourselves in the new year instead of the massive gift pile. I was hoping to just have our Buddha wrapped in lights but we did put up a tree for tradition sake. Many blessings in the New Year for you and Matt!

    • PS… The snowflakes on this page made me think I was having a stroke and seeing floaters in my eyes!! I was glad to notice that I wasn’t having a stroke and the snowflakes were intended.. LOVE IT!

    • Michelle!
      Sorry about the snowflakes. Someone else said that. It’s because my page is white but they are so much fun, I didn’t want to take them off. They only go until the first week of January.
      Seems like we have so much in common, huh? But then, we always did. I thought more than with the others.
      Your holidays and new year sound wonderful and insightful. I love that you’re teaching your kids something different than what you grew up with. I love how traditions and generations change and merge. Your Buddha comment made me smile. 🙂

  6. Polish mom photographer! How wonderful it would be to go to Poland for Christmas! I’d want to hear all about it. I’ve never been to Poland, but always wanted to go. They have such good food there! For a while, my husband thought he was of Polish ancestery. Turned out he isn’t, but he learned how to make all kinds of Polish food during the process!
    Yeah, it’s just another culture. Take it with a grain of salt. You’re doing just fine. 🙂

  7. Pingback: Nativity Gifts: Giving of yourself «

  8. Just wanted to let you know that I saw a sign when I walked into the Exchange yesterday. It said, “Only 5 Days Left!! Shop Now for Best Selection!” I thought to myself, “Ha, I’m not a sheep like everyone else, I won’t succumb to the commercialization of Christmas.” I hate all the pressure from everywhere that says spend, spend, spend, and spend some more during this time of year. That goes against everything I do as a saver. I’m so glad I married a saver too. Merry Christmas!

    • To Mr. Matt—Happy holidays from one scrooge to another! 🙂
      You made me smile.

    • lol… I’ve been talking to my husband yesterday that I can’t wait for the Christmas to be over with because there those commercials on tv and everywhere else drive me nuts, especially those Lexus commercials. A car for a Christmas gift?!? Really?! I grew up getting winter mittens and hats… Once, I got a barbie doll and I think that was the most expensive gift I have ever recived 🙂
      Just buy, buy, buy.. It’s sooo stupid!!! You’re both lucky that you have each other and that you’re such a smart people.

      • I have never met anyone who has ever received a car for Christmas. I don’t know who is writing those commercials. WE should be writing them, eh?

      • me neither! but those commercial make me feel like there is one on every corner of my neighborhood. lol.
        I agree, we should be hire to write them!!! normal commercials for normal people!
        ok, I better get back to baking 😉

  9. I agree – the most wonderful gift give and received is the gift of time and company. Who needs material possessions? They just weigh us down. Well done.

    • Alison, Alison. If only there were more like you out there. I appreciate all the comments on my blog today. My goodness. I feel so spoiled. I will listen to your latest on the blues tonight!

  10. When I first read this post, I immediately thought of a gift that a dear friend’s husband gave to her and their daughters last Christmas. Marty was dying of a brain tumor and they all knew it would be their last Christmas. He could barely walk, and although he could still understand what was being said to him, he had a very difficult time talking. A few words at a time were the most he could manage to get out, which makes his gift even more extraordinary. Marty read to his family a list of things that they could give to each other. I wanted so much to tell you about it, but I could only remember a few of the things on the list. Today, I spent the afternoon with my friend, Joy, and we exchanged our simple Christmas gifts as we do each year. I was thrilled beyond words at what she gave to me. It was Marty’s list. Here are some of the things he suggested that they give each other:

    mend a quarrel
    seek out a forgotten friend
    write a long overdue love note
    hug someone tightly and whisper, “I love you so.”
    forgive an enemy
    be gentle and patient with an angry person
    express appreciation
    find the time to keep a promise
    release a grudge
    speak kindly to a stranger
    enter into another’s sorrow
    talk a walk with a friend
    kneel down and pat a dog
    read a poem or two to a friend
    lessen your demands on others
    turn off the television and talk
    do the dishes for the family
    pray for someone who helped you when you hurt
    give a soft answer even though you feel strongly

    This is not the complete list, but I’ve already taken too much of your time. I believe that it was only the grace of God that allowed him to read the entire list. Marty lived only a few more weeks, but he left such precious memories. I am overjoyed at receiving this list as my gift today. I hope that you will be blessed by it as well.

    • Learningandyearning,
      Marty’s list is truly a precious and wonderful gift. It brought tears to my eyes. There are so many on there I need to practice more often. I shall use it throughout the year. Thank you so much for sharing it with me. He spoke of the true gifts of life. I will pass it on so that his words may always be remembered.

      • Joy and I talked yesterday of all the wonderful things that came out of that dreadful time. God’s ways are a mystery, but I know with certainty that Marty would want God to receive all the glory in this.

  11. belatedly, i join in to let you know that we have not celebrated the holy commercial excess for decades, and it feels normal..i expect not to give, nor receive..although my good and faithful friends do lavish homemade goodies on me, some send them, some re-gift items they know we will enjoy..those little condiments and foreign luxuries with weird spelling, like myself..and they want nothing but for me to get fat and happy for it…i also have received gift cards from relatives which allow us to buy necessities of our choice like a crock-pot which is still in use, at least once a week for years…as for mood decor, i gather evergreen branches and put them in a vase or bowl, pick a few red berries and add classic traditional flare, perhaps a recycled ribbon somewhere, for the little girl moi…good food, good feel, letters online, recycled cards with letters full of genuine sentiment for others and it’s a hassle-free holiday–thank you for sharing yours ladies and gent..

    • Thanks for the boost of encouragement, Nadinesellers. We hope to be able to say just like you, “We have not celebrated the holy commerical excess for decades, and it feels normal.” At least, I hope to.
      I came from a family who didn’t once we hit high school, but marrying someone whose family still celebrates with the gift giving has been a real challenge. No matter how often we ask for no gifts…well. Though I realize not everyone understands and traditions are hard to break, I’d like for us to set our own traditions in our new family. You know?

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