Friday, December 8, 2017

Petitioning the Christmas Cop-Out

Christmas tree shopping with little cousins in tow.
Pre-Thanksgiving, I was already wicked excited for Christmas. I had so many ideas for gifts and parties and decorations, so many things I wanted to do with the little cousins. I imagined weekends spent at craft fairs and candles burning and lots of family snuggled together to watch a Christmas movie. It's been a few years since I really, whole-heartedly felt Christmas-y that early, and I was thrilled.

But. In my idyllic Whoville-esque world, I'd forgotten that full family on-board-ed-ness is a key ingredient. Over Thanksgiving, both sides of the family talked over Christmas plans and brought up the ever-present question of how to handle gift-giving. I don't know why, but neither side of our family has ever figured out a Christmas gifting system that works year to year. Sometimes, we buy for everyone. Sometimes, we buy for just the kids and grand-parents, and no middle-adults. This year, we decided to do a yankee swap for my Mom's side, and no gifts at all for my Dad's side. And, I don't know. That's really sucked a lot of the fun out of Christmas for me.

It's not that I want a bunch of gifts, obviously. I hate thoughtless-consumerism just as much as the next person, and I find nothing more soul-sucking than a cellophane-wrapped Walmart gift basket. But, at the risk of sounding like a Pinterest quote board, it's not about what you get! The best part about Christmas gift-giving is that it has almost nothing to do with the actual gift that's getting wrapped. There's a lot of joy that comes from meditating about a person, deciding on the best gift for them, and then going out of your way (but making room in your budget or time in your schedule) to give it to them.

When I was little, I always got a present for every single person in the family. Granted, I was 11. Most of my presents involved photos stuffed in thrift-store frames, cookie dough for the freezer, a badly knit dish towel, or, if I was being spend-y, a can of mixed nuts. I spent months planning these gifts out, and painstakingly wrapping every single one. At Christmas, I was so proud that every person had a present from me. I remembered that I would worry if I had left someone out; I was terrified that they would think they weren't as meaningful to me if I hadn't found them the perfect gift.

As an adult now, whenever I watch my little cousins give gifts, I understand what it must have been like to watch me as a kid. They get so excited whenever they've been the ones to pick something out, and they always have a fantastic reason for giving it. One year, my cousin Ena bought my Mom white coffee mug with the Lucky Charms logo on it. One one side, over the Lucky Charm's guy's face, sat a huge, orange 50 cents sticker. Ena was so excited, "I heard you loved Lucky Charms!" she said.

And she's right. My mom loves Lucky Charms! And now, a good 8 or 9 years later, we still have that mug in all it's Dollar Store glory. It's one of our favorites. If we do a yankee swap, moments like that won't happen. Every one will have a sterile, $20 gift for the swap and it will pass without a ton of talking. Don't get me wrong, I love a good yankee swap. But they work best when you're doing it with a huge group, or at a church Christmas party, and everyone can bring silly gifts. Those yankee swaps are amazing, but swaps in a normal-sized family, with serious gifts, are just lame.

I just can't stand the dicussion that always comes with this. All the "we don't have money this year!" and "we never know what to get!" and "you're all grown up now!". It's just laziness. Most of the gifts I give are homemade baked goods, because I never have the extra money, either. But the point is not the what of the giving. It's the taking time out of your day to really think about a specific person, and do something that's just for them.

I think we bring out a lot of our insecurities as adults as Christmas. We worry so much more about how much money we spend on each person, and whether or not that was the 'right' amount for them. I think that's ridiculous. We think that we can't do homemade gifts any more, and that it's better to give nothing at all than to give a plate of cookies, or something small. These are our families! They love us and value us and are happy when we think of them.

I find that heart-breaking. These are our families, and we should be able to love them as the people we are in the here and now: simple treats if you're broke this year, a heartfelt card, or if you're on the opposite side and have been really blessed this year, then something they can't get for themselves. No one else is (or should be!) judging you, no matter what side you fall. I petition that we get over our egos this Christmas, and get back to the heart of the matter: giving of ourselves, to those we love the most.

Happy Friday! xoxo
Gillian

PS-Here's a look back at what I was thankful for in 2015 (hint: if I'd written a list this year, there would have been a lot of repeats!), and some priceless holiday family pictures.

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