Every year it seems that holiday gift giving gets more and more out of control. Growing up both my family and my husband, Ian’s family gave minimal gifts. However, as we got older my family’s gift giving seemed to increase more and more until it got to the point that there would be this ginormous mound of gifts; packages wrapped all neatly with fancy paper and bows and inside were mostly things that no one needed or even wanted and were just gifts for the sake of gifts. Oh, and did I mention we weren’t even kids anymore? All of the “kids” were in college. We finally decided that this was ridiculous and stopped this custom.
I used to make gifts for friends and family. Even then, many times it just seemed like gifts for the sake of gifts and was a waste of resources and time. I always struggle with the concept of gift giving because I don’t like wasting, whether it be money or resources. Giving a gift out of obligation doesn’t seem authentic and yet what does a person do? I don’t want to feel bad I don’t have a gift for someone who gives me something or make them upset I didn’t give them anything.
Now that we have kids, Ian and I have discussed how to go about gift giving. At first we didn’t give CNY anything or just one toy, something new that we thought he would enjoy and didn’t have, like stacking rings when he was 1, a large dump truck to play with outside when he was 3. Now that CNY is 4 1/2 he enjoys receiving and unwrapping gifts, whereas 19 month old YS still doesn’t really pay much attention to the whole ceremony. We know family members are going to give the kids gifts so do we leave it at that or do we also give them gifts. They don’t really need much now and we like to have minimal open-ended, well-made toys, so what do we do?
A few days ago I came across a blog post on Penniless Parenting about giving experiences instead of gifts. I love this idea! For CNY and YS’s birthdays (their birthdays are only 6 days apart) we had debated about giving them each a gift and a party or just taking them somewhere like Disneyland. In the end we decided to just have a small family double birthday party. The boys loved it, they got to be the center of attention, received some gifts from their Amazon Wish List and we made our traditional Chayim Cupcakes shaped like a train using homemade natural food coloring and frosting. It was perfect! CNY still talks about it 8 months later.
Back to the gifts…this year we decided to give the boys some small gifts: fabric finger puppets, wood cars and trucks and a popup play tent/castle; all things that will last, can be shared and spark imagination. Just yesterday we went to a local children’s imagination educational exploration play place, and they loved it! On the way out CNY asked if we can come back tomorrow and stay longer. I looked into getting annual passes but I just wasn’t sure if we would go enough to make it worth it, it looks like it would be worth it. Now, if family asks us what to get them we will suggest contributing for an annual pass so we can go whenever we want. The best gifts are the gifts that the recipient wants but isn’t going to get for themselves, can be used over and over again, doesn’t increase our carbon footprint and can be enjoyed by more than just one person.
This year we will be encouraging thoughtful gift giving (not just receiving), sharing and experiencing.
What kinds of gifts are you going to be giving this year? Comment below and tweet your #consciousgiftgiving inspiration, tag us #awholeisticlife so we can share your inspiration.
May you have a happy and healthy holiday filled with love, gratitude and mindfulness,