Sunday, December 17, 2006

Holiday Gifts or Guilt?!

This time of year feels like life is running on fast-forward. And for what? Everyone I talk with laments the commercialism of Christmas. Yet we continue to participate. People (women, mostly) feel obligated to give gifts to people whom they usually don't even send a birthday card during the year. They confess to having a few extra wrapped gifts tucked away in case they receive a gift from someone who wasn't on their list. "It's to avoid those awkward moments," they explain.

Why? Why do these seemingly mandatory gifts come with an unspoken expectation that each gift must be reciprocated?

I confess to being caught up in the holiday gift rat race. Each year I say that enough is enough and I'm not going to do it the next year. This year, I mean it. I'm growing up! Okay, well, I'm weaning off of the gift madness. I asked my husband to make his famous cookies this year so we could give them to neighbors and friends whom I normally feel compelled to spend money buying things they don't need.

I've warned some friends that they are receiving "Robert's Famous Cookies" for the holidays this year. That is code for, "I'm not buying anything for you this year, and I hope you don't buy anything for us this year, either."

The real test of my growth is how I will handle it if they give us store-bought gifts anyway. Will I whip out one of those pre-wrapped gifts I've stashed away over the years or will I just say, "thank you!" and share a hug?

I did manage to get some holiday photo cards printed up this year and wrote a one-page year-end letter to send out. I've even addressed and stamped about 30 of them this weekend. Now they just need to make it to the post office.

I had gone almost ten years without getting holiday cards mailed out -- letters were written almost every year, but they stayed in a stack until it was too embarrassingly late to send them out (like the wedding thank you notes I found five years after our wedding).

Let's make a pact for next year -- it's not too early to start talking it up:
No store-bought gifts beyond immediate family for Christmas 2007. Make a donation to a local charity in honor of all those candles, ornaments, and tchochkes you normally buy for people. Let your friends know that you are honoring them by supporting an organization that helps others throughout the year.

Peace to you and yours!

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