Tis the season

It’s almost Thanksgiving.  Which, in today’s culture, means that it’s almost Black Friday Eve.  People will camp outside stores to make a mad dash for doorbuster sales and discounted prices to prepare for their holiday gift-giving traditions.

I posted a note on my Facebook and tagged my close family and friends, letting them know that they were exempt from giving me a gift this year.  Here’s what my note said:

Attention friends and family, with Black Friday approaching I wanted to let you know that you’re off the hook for me this year.  Consider yourself gift-exempt.  I would rather have a nice phone call with you to catch up (if you’re far away) or make plans to spend time together (if you’re close) than get a gift.

I know that the holiday season is a time of giving, and you may feel strongly about getting me a gift.  If you do feel compelled to give me something for the holidays, please remember that I’m vegan, I  buy organic as often as possible, and I don’t use commercial bath or beauty products with unpronounceable chemicals in them.  If you want to buy something for me, please buy something made in the USA or a Fair Trade Certified import that is not made of plastic. You could also make a charitable donation in my name to a worthy cause.

Or just ask me what I’m currently coveting, for example:

  • -A HankyBook: http://hankybook.com/ (I like the pink lotus pattern especially)
  • -White or sage green color cloth napkins (secondhand, seriously, shop at Goodwill, antique malls, and estate sales)
  • -Measuring spoons (again with the secondhand stuff from Goodwill, etc.)
  • -A nice (and smallish) bamboo cutting board, or bamboo cooking utensils
  • -Really, just ask and I will come up with something I would really appreciate as a gift! But you are not obligated.

Now that I have given you my high-maintenance hippie Christmas list, I’m sure you’ll be very relieved to go read the first part again and remember that I am giving you gift-exempt status!

I love you all, and I wish you happy holidays 🙂

I thought this was a pretty appropriate note letting people know that, as we approach the Time of Shopping, they could leave me off their lists.  This is my one-person passive protest against consumerism.  Because really, Christmastime has become more about the gifts and the sales and the stuff than the love for a lot of people.  I just want the love.  I’ve always loved Christmas, and I remember spending days going through catalogs and circling the things I wanted.  I don’t even remember what I asked for or received most years.  These are the gifts I remember the most:

  • A music box with Disney’s Aladdin and Jasmine on the flying carpet, some time around age 5 or 6.  My dad wrote a very long note about how I was not to shake the box because it was fragile, and I thought it was a joke so I shook it anyway.  It was fine, but I did lose it at some point through the years and I bought one on ebay a couple years ago because I missed it and it reminds me of my dad.  It’s on my filing cabinet at work.
  • A “Boxcar Children” book from my aunt, when I was around 5 or 6.  I remember saying “Ew, I don’t like these books,” and my mom told me to be appreciative and give it a chance.  I quickly consumed ALL THE BOXCAR CHILDREN BOOKS.  I even “left a mystery” in the house when we moved out of it.  It was not a good mystery, it was some pokemon cards stuffed into a hole in a closet wall. I am mildly ashamed of this.
  • A stuffed animal seal, around age 11.  It was donated by someone because we were part of an adopt-a-family program.  I have donated gifts to families in need since then, always remembering and being thankful for those who gave me that seal.
  • A glass chess set from my brother, age 11.  It was gorgeous and wonderful.
  • A laptop computer from both my parents when I started college (age 17).  I saved the gift tag for years because it was the first “Love, Mom and Dad” gift I had seen since they divorced when I was seven.
  • This year my mom is paying for my hotel stay in Spain as my Christmas gift, because she is awesome.

I remember how those gifts made me feel.  All of these gifts were in tune with the things I loved and appreciated, like my favorite movie (Aladdin, at the time), a favorite hobby (reading), a game I had recently learned to love (chess), and something I needed for school (the computer).  This year, mom’s picking up my hotel tab and I have no additional expectations for more gifts, because that gift of having a place to stay on my vacation is plenty, even without a tangible item.  I’m minimizing tangible items, remember?

But putting parameters on gifts like this is a little inappropriate because it’s the thought that counts, right?  My counter-argument to this is that all I want is the thought. I want my family and friends to think about me this season, to call me on the phone and catch up, to go out to lunch, or to just spend some time with me.  My “parameters” for the gifts I would like are the same parameters I set when I’m shopping for myself — I do my best to buy local, sustainable, Fair Trade, and made in America products.  I do not always succeed, but I make an effort and I am always thinking about what my dollars mean.

(My iPhone is staring at me like I’m a hypocrite right now.  Are there any ethically made cell phones?)

All I ask is that, if someone is going to get me a gift (which they are in no way obligated to do), they get me something that resonates with my personal values and beliefs.

Are you taking any particular stands on this matter for the holidays?

16 thoughts on “Tis the season

  1. We celebrate Christmas with a small group of family, and we have a “€10,- max per gift” policy. This way, we don’t overspend but we do think about what that person really wants, give that person something useful, and think more about homemade or thrift gifts. It is amazing how much you can do with only 10 euros!

    1. That’s a good policy, I think! My mom tends to tell us we can ask for three things, and we may not get all three. But it forces us to be realistic and only ask for the things we truly want and will use. So many good tips are out there for a non-crazy holiday, thanks for sharing your family’s tradition!

  2. We’ve always made gift lists in our family for as long as I can remember. It means that people pretty much get stuff that they want and will be useful. I know mum has a budget for each person…for a few years I have been asking for various pieces of art that I have bought unframed to be framed for Christmas and birthdays…material things, but also going to the effort of taking picture to the framing shop, etc etc, which is appreciated too!
    My close friends have done Secret Santa with a £20 budget for a few years now… And we have a meal in a nice pub, which is becoming a lovely tradition 🙂
    I knit a lot of presents- this year I am knitting pairs of socks for people to be used as stockings for little treats and so on…but also the socks are useful too! 🙂

    1. I like the gift list idea, it keeps it pretty simple so you don’t have to guess at what someone would like as a gift. And budgets are also good, as well as dinner dates and hand making gifts! Thanks for your comment 🙂

  3. I just gave my son my wishlist. Since my adult boys believe they need to buy me things still on Christmas (I have finally gotten it through to them to quit buying for me the rest of the year!!!) I decided to let them know what I would really like. Today I gave my son a list of music he owns that I would love to have a copy of. That’s it. I told his brother if he really had to get me something I need a staple gun. Practical and not very expensive.

  4. HaPpY ThAnKsGiViNg cAiTLiN!!! I LOVE how you worded your gift-exemption! I think after most people read it, they’ll be like, maybe we shouldn’t get her anything. I don’t really get too many gifts anymore, which is fine with me. But my sister this year keeps coming out with random suggestions for what to get me. Stuff that I’m like, dude I’m a minimalist!!! She’s funny.

    1. Thanks! Feel free to use it for your own gift exemption notice to family and friends 🙂 And sometimes sisters are just like that. My sister texted me the other day about whether or not silicone-and-plastic measuring spoons were acceptable, so sometimes they listen too 😀 Happy Thanksgiving, even though you’re in Canada.

  5. My mom had the idea (and I hope we do it) to have each person get just one gift this year. Ie. I would be responsible for a gift to one person, and someone else would be responsible for one gift. I am going to ask for a massage at a spa. It won’t be an item but I would love it and find it relaxing.

    1. I like to gift “experiences” like massages, concert tickets, zoo memberships, etc. rather than things when I can. I love your idea for a massage!

  6. This year due to a demotion and major lack of funds I did not buy gifts. But this year coming I am making them and wrapping in a scarf or handkerchief or other reusable material. I once saw an article about how experiences are better than material possessions, in that vain I was planning a beach get away for my daughter’s 16th birthday (only the second in our lives) as she will have her permit and I thought she would like to drive and now she is begging for a shopping spree. I said I would let her sister in law help her budget what little I could afford and I will stay home and rest. I hate shopping.

    A couple years ago I gave every one experience gifts that year including a bunch of baseball games for my brother to the local AAA League in their hometown. HE WAS SO HAPPY! I wanted to do the same for others but unlike you others would not tell what specifically they wanted no matter how much I asked. I like that you laid it out for family and friends.

    I like your left behind mystery in the wall. My kids loved Pokeman and as an adult I could sing the show song and identify more than half the outlines of the characters at the start of every episode. You were inspired – YAY books! I have always loved books and could be found on my bed with a book, and I can still tell you to this day decades later where I was and in what position (feet up on the wall, my pillow, across the window, etc) I was in as I consumed ‘Old Yeller’.

    How have your Holidays and Birthdays been since this original post over 3 years ago??

    1. Thanks for writing and reading my older posts! I still try to incorporate handmade, reusable, and experience-based gifts in my giving. I also like to give books, clothing, and stuff people NEED or really want but never buy themselves. I try to buy from local crafters as much as possible, and I also will go out of my way to support POC-owned businesses as well. I love finding the perfect gift for someone, and if it helps a cause I believe in, so much the better.

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