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Merry No-Mas to all! Redefining the Holidays

The holidays are upon us. After over a year of quarantines, politics, and hardships, this holiday season is expected to be exceptionally busy and abundant, with celebrations and festivities aplenty. Black Friday is shaping up to be a free-for-all gift haul!

But for many, after experiencing unemployment, unexpected hardships, and loss, gift giving during the holiday season may feel more like a burden than a blessing. For some, this may even be a familiar sentiment with the expectations of giving and receiving gifts settling over them like an itchy, ill-fitting ugly holiday sweater year after year.

Gifts often feel like an obligation. The process of purchasing or receiving gifts may seem inauthentic or contrived. If you are struggling with the Holiday Humbugs, it may be related to feelings of resentment and frustration. Perhaps there are other ways to celebrate the holidays.

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...

au-then-tic hon-esty!

How to tell someone you don’t want any gifts:

  • Be honest and direct:

    • “I’m still struggling with Grandma’s death and I’m just not in a place this year to celebrate Christmas. I know I’ll be ok and eventually I’ll be ready to get back into the holiday spirit, but this year I just need to skip the holidays.”

    • “I’d appreciate it if we could forego giving gifts this year. We really love getting gifts for everyone but we just don’t have the means this year and it’s really not fun for us to just receive things without being able to give also. It feels really uncomfortable for us.”

    • I’d rather not get gifts this year. I don’t really need anything and I’m trying to reduce all the clutter I already have” or “I’m trying to be more intentional with the things I bring into my home.”

  • Provide an alternative:

    • “Please don’t buy me any gifts this year. What I’d really love instead is if we could go do something fun together.”

    • “Instead of gifts, I’d love it if we could go to the store and get supplies for the local animal shelter. Then we can drop off the donation together.”

    • “In honor of Grandma, I’m asking that donations be made to the local humane society in lieu of personal gifts this year.”

    • “There really isn’t anything I want. What I really need is some help painting the house. Instead of gifts, what if you come over and we can have a painting party.”

But I LOOOOOVE gift giving!

You might be a superfan of gift giving and giving gifts every year is what lights your Menorah! You probably give gifts regardless of the time of year. You might even love gifts so much you invent holidays just to have the opportunity to give random gifts throughout the year. If you’re the kind of person who celebrates National Drinking Straw Day (January 3rd, for those who were wondering), then this section is for you.

Everyone in the office is getting reusable straws!!!
You get a straw, and you get a straw...

Chances are, as you were reading the lists above, you were mentally coming up with ways to circumvent those requests. You may have an urge to respond with “but I really love getting gifts for you” or “you letting me get these gifts for you could be my gift from you!” You might be the type to gift ambush people, justifying this decision with “it’s just a small gift” or “I saw it and thought of you. I just couldn’t resist.” But if you have someone who has expressed to you that they would prefer not to receive or purchase gifts, I challenge you to step outside of your glittering, brightly wrapped box and explore other options. Stop and really consider the request. Is your gift giving meeting their needs or your own? Responding in any way other than with acceptance might be a bit manipulative and it ignores what the person really wants or needs from you. Although you may be giving gifts from a place of good intentions, your gifts may inadvertently remind that person of a disparity in their resources or compound the difficulties they may be experiencing in coping with a tough situation during the holidays.

Some very valid reasons people may choose to forego holiday festivities and/or gifts:

  • Financial hardship

  • Personal values such as minimalism, zero waste, spirituality, etc.

  • Personal preferences, such as preferring experiences over things or finding more meaning in a donation to a charity as opposed to being given a gift.

  • Grief and loss

  • A desire to experience the holidays in a more meaningful way, maybe through religious/spiritual expression or through time spent with family and friends

Finding other meaningful ways to express love, friendship, and gratitude this holiday season:

  • Acts of Kindness- find something to do without expecting anything in return. Pick up an extra shift at work so a coworker might have an opportunity to spend much needed time with family; offer to clean, cook, run errands, or help with DIY projects around the house.

  • Share experiences- host a game night, share a meal or bake holiday goodies with family and friends, go ice skating or on a hike together, volunteer together, go on a trip or explore someplace local

  • Give consumables- do a cookie exchange, have a potluck

  • Make something personalized or meaningful together- get family photos taken, start a community garden, or paint personalized mugs for each other (The trifecta. It’s a shared experience, it’s practical, and you can express how you feel!)

Maybe this holiday season you forego the gifts. Maybe that leaves space to reflect and reconnect. Maybe this is shaping up to be one of the best holiday seasons yet! If nothing else, find space to be a little less serious and have more fun. HAPPY HOLIDAYS YA'LL!


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