A Holiday Without Gifts?
While driving around the local mall’s parking lot in search of a space during the final weekends before Christmas, you may find yourself wondering if the gift-purchasing and giving hasn’t gotten out of hand.
It all depends on what you consider excessive. Surveys don’t always agree on how much we spend, but the number is in the several hundred dollar range. Overspending can have a considerable cost to individuals, and consumers may find themselves carrying increased debt in January as a result.
If some Canadians have their way, that average — and related debt and shopping madness — may start to move downwards. Since 2001, the Canadian movement titled Buy Nothing Christmas has been gaining momentum. That’s the year that a small group of Mennonites decided to go public with their invitation to Canadians, as they say on their website, “to join a movement to de-commercialize Christmas and re-design a Christian [or non-Christian] lifestyle that is richer in meaning, smaller in impact upon the earth, and greater in giving to people less-privileged.”
Many family members can relate to the question of excessive gifts. Lindsay Abramson, 29, of Toronto is one of them. She asked her mother, Joy, in her mid-fifties and also of Toronto, to limit gifts to her two children, aged 5 and 7, this Christmas.
“It’s real simple,” she said in an interview held at a mall, “their room is full of toys. Their closet is full of toys. The living room is full of their toys. I’d rather they got experiences like a trip to the ROM [Royal Ontario Museum] instead.”
Joy disagrees. “They’re kids and it’s Christmas! Besides, I’m their grandmother. It’s my job to spoil them with presents under the tree!”
Joy’s position isn’t so hard to understand: giving gifts at this time of year is how many of us show our love and affection for each other. Grandparents in particular see gift-giving as a way to create ties between generations. “I always try to give a gift they’ll [her 3 grandchildren] treasure all year,” says Alice Taylor, 68, of Scarborough, Ontario. “I can’t always afford something fancy but I put a lot of thought into it. And I enjoy the shopping as long as I get started early.”
So what’s a family to do instead? Suggestions to cut down on or eliminate buying gifts include:
– Give away something you don’t use, or shop at thrift stores
– Create inexpensive gifts: a family calendar, holiday baking, create a collage of family photographs, plant cuttings
– Give services instead of gifts: baby and pet sitting, cleaning, cooking, fix-it hours
– Have each person draw the name of one family member instead of buying for everyone
– Agree not to exchange gifts but share a holiday experience instead such as a trip or day together outdoors