This year my family decided to do without gifts. We wanted to switch things up and try something new. The idea came from the notion that we always end up with more things, and not necessarily things we need. Today, we spent our money on food and entertainment instead. Albeit, it was quite strange not opening gifts on Christmas. I’ve really come to terms with feeling good about having less, being more intentional about purchases and ultimately living a more minimalist life – this was the first Christmas doing so.
As a disclaimer, I have nothing against gift giving on Christmas. Although it does seem worthwhile to question how you do it. Christmas is really about being with the people you love, taking a step back from the day to day and enjoying family. If that time is shadowed with the stress of having to shop for the “perfect gift” for all of your family members the result can be less than desirable. Rather, a few years ago we started doing the X buys for Y and Y buys for Z model so everyone only had to focus on one gift, and could make it a good one. Even then there was an age old obligation to fill the stocking, and the end result was socks, books, chocolate, lottery tickets and all those other little things that still wound up in a drawer I cleaned out after watching the minimalist documentary.
Fast fashion alone is the second-biggest consumer of water and produces more greenhouse gas than all the flights in the world in any given year. As you can see, it’s important to begin questioning our own levels of consumerism if you value a healthy planet – fashion or otherwise. Since I can remember, Christmas has always commoditized holiday, but we seem to be trending to such extremes. black Friday and boxing day have become week(s), and as a result we are tricked into buying more things we don’t need by clever marketers. It seems the spirit of Christmas is getting caught up in pushing the consumerist envelope further and further down the line until we all have the most discounted STUFF we possibly can. Buying something on sale does not save you money (most of the time), in fact it does the exact opposite when you really think about. What I’ve found to be quite fulfilling is buying far less, but spending more on the things you do really want or need. That way, it last longer, you enjoy it more, use it more, and have a greater appreciation for it. If you have ten pairs of shoes you likely wear three, and even then only have one or two you really love. What if everything you owned you loved? The same goes for the rest of the clothes in most of our closets. Spend the extra money and get what you really want, but do it far less often. Likely, those things will last five times as long and cost you less in the long run. I’ve found my things more fulfilling this way.
That being said, it is nice to give your loved ones gifts from now and then. Although for most of us it’s hard to give five or more gifts extraordinarily well. Buying your partner something they desire as a treat because you love them is one thing, but buying your whole extended family something out of obligation is much different. And hey, maybe your family is really good at it and you get fulfilment out of it, and if that’s the case, that’s great. I just doubt that most families are this way. I’m not here to tell anyone how to live, but I do think it’s worth having a conversation about the traditions we take for granted.
Moving forward, I’m considering making the holidays about something new. This year, things were a little different as we didn’t supplement gift giving with something else. Perhaps going on a holiday or volunteering would be fun. I’m not sure, but something was definitely missing. There’s a certain thrill about opening gifts, even if you have an idea of what they are. Maybe we can get a similar thrill out of travel, or giving back – I hope to find out in a year.
Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays