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Thread: How to Start a New Christmas Tradition: Minimalist Style?

  1. #1
    Senior Member catherine's Avatar
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    How to Start a New Christmas Tradition: Minimalist Style?

    We have historically been an over-the-top Christmas-giving family. Not sure why. My MIL, a very generous (yet also very frugal) person may have helped set the tone early on. Plus we bought very few things throughout the year and we tended to use Christmas to "catch up" on things we needed and wanted.

    Last year my second son requested that we go really minimal. He and my DIL were expecting and they were watching their budgets. So we actually did pretty well with it.

    This year, he reiterated that they are on a very tight budget, and that his in-laws are doing Secret Santa, and that his wife asked if we could go that route as well. My son told her "it will never happen."

    Well, I toed the water by sending out a family email asking for Christmas "wish lists" and then saying that our (more) minimalist Christmas last year was a success and I absolutely didn't want stress about shopping and/or budgets to impair our Christmas cheer so I was open to any suggestions for keeping it simple--and among the things I mentioned (simple handmade things, dollar limits, gifts of time) I included Secret Santa.

    I heard back from DIL who, predictably said that she's in favor of Secret Santa, but she knows that she's probably in the minority.

    Does anyone have any creative suggestions for how to make everyone happy, and make gift giving fulfilling for the most number of people? Numbers of people concerned are about 10 adults and 3 little ones.
    "Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it--every, every minute?" Emily Webb, Our Town
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  2. #2
    Senior Member iris lilies's Avatar
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    I am hopeless at offering ideas for “making gift giving fullfilling.” I cannot tell you how bored I was in putting together a wishlist to meet whatever dollar amount was determined as acceptable by DH’s family ( they drew names) and what a relief when that crap ended. Oh also I think we had to get a “stocking” (small present) for each person if I remember correctly.

    And if there are still people in your group of 10 who like wish lists and shopping and piles of wrapped presents and etc, anything simpler will not “make them happy” but THIS is the time to make the change, when all of your children have their own households.

    Also I don’t understand what “ Secret Santa “ means if it means you are still drawing names, But maybe you don’t normally draw names, everyone gets everyone a gift, so one person is buying 9 gifts? If so, Oh my, ugh. That is just extreme.
    Last edited by iris lilies; 11-27-18 at 1:55am.

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    Most of my life we were under pressure to buy gifts for 40 people when we had little money. It sucked. That’s all gone with the people being gone. I would buy gifts for kids only.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Simplemind's Avatar
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    I am so happy we gave up gift giving now that everybody is an adult. We only do Christmas socks because everybody's birthday is also within a week of Christmas (5 of them) and we make a bigger deal (gift wise) over the birthday which now they are all adults is cash. So we pick a day (usually the first Saturday of December) and have our holiday get together where we eat a potluck dinner, play board games and listen to Christmas music. Everybody is happy with this. At the end of the month we get together for another similar evening for the birthdays. We enjoy time over gifts.

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    Yankee swap.

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    Senior Member rosarugosa's Avatar
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    I agree that a Yankee Swap is a good way to get maximum gift entertainment value for minimal effort and expenditure. We've eliminated gifts altogether for xmas and just do gifts for birthdays within our immediate families.

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    Gift giving amongst adults has always seemed a little hard to understand for me. If an adult wants something, they should just get it themselves. They also know what they want and what they can afford.

    A friend of mine named Riggs said his family got each other gifts historically. Then they sort of realized that it was better to give each other some cash, so the person could go buy exactly what they wanted from the stores.

    Then he pointed out to them that they were all essentially standing in a circle and handing $50-$100 to the person to their left. And said: "We might as well just keep our cash. The results are the same."

    It dawned on everyone that he was right.

    So they decided to focus on something that gift giving "obscures rather than truly facilitates" and something that money cannot buy: Quality time with each other.

    His family is a card playing crew (something I admire but just can't get into). So now on Xmas they get together, talk, have dinner, talk, play the hell out of some card games as a big family, talk some more, probably eat some more, talk, play some more cards, talk, and then reluctantly go their own ways until the next family holiday.

    If I could sum up the point of Riggs' experience it is this: Do something with your family rather than give them cash or prizes. Doing things brings you closer together. Doing things bonds you. Doing things makes you a family.

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    I floated the gift exchange idea twice, where everyone got one other person to buy for, but there were no takers. We come from a gift-giving family and everyone seems to enjoy giving gifts, so one year I suggested a cap amount because of budgets. That went a little better but got forgotten when the grandchildren came.

    In your situation, I might try a "normal gift giving applies for the under 21 set" and for the adults, set a budget of ten dollars (or twenty, if the adults balk at 10) and see how that works for a year. My husband and I were going to do that--set the twenty dollar limit ad go out shopping with each other. That got blown out of the water when we stopped at the local made in Michigan store and he bought me a leland stone necklace, because I wanted something to remember this area by if and when we move, and leland stones are so cool. I bought him a pair of wool socks secretly but he found them when putting away the grocery bags. I bought him a copper water bottle that he does not know about and will wrap that and put under the tree if we have a tree or just hand it to him on Christmas.

    Our family's problem is we get excited about buying gifts and surprising each other. It seems to mean a lot to us; one of the last things my dad did before his fall and going into the hospital was giving checks to his children and grandchildren--and it was terribly difficult for him to accomplish, there at the end. So it does mean a lot to us, for some reason. It's definitely not something akin to standing around handing out money.

    This year my folks are getting new LL Bean slippers for the nursing home. There's not that much you can give someone in a nursing home. . .

    And I found my daughter in law's china that she started collecting at the Goodwill, an entire set for her (also at Goodwill.) That only cost fifty dollars, but shipping seven boxes of china was not cheap.

    We have definitely simplified Christmas, but I think the gift giving thing is highly dependent on the family involved, what brings them joy.

  9. #9
    Senior Member catherine's Avatar
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    Thank you for all the awesome suggestions and experiences. Tybee, thanks for sharing your feelings/experiences, which validate mine. We are the same way. As much stress as it places on us, it always seems to pay off with the delight and joy and laughter. The kids seem to be so insightful with their gifts for us and each other... and it doesn't mean they spend a lot necessarily--as they say "it's the thought that counts" and they seem to come up with just the right thing--whether it's my songwriter son who frames personalized poems he's written for us, or my DIL/son who bought me a pair of Carhart overalls for volunteering with my Master Gardeners, or my other son who had us all in stitches one year with handmade clay gifts, with funny notes to match.

    If it weren't for the fact that the gifts are all so personal, a Yankee swap would be a lot of fun.

    I'll continue to mull.. maybe have Secret Santa for the Gen X/Yers in the family. Or do the dollar limit thing. Still pondering.. but you've given me a lot of food for thought.
    "Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it--every, every minute?" Emily Webb, Our Town
    www.silententry.wordpress.com

  10. #10
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    Itís hard - the givers want to buy for everyone but then they expect things in return. So itís awkward too. Because itís not giving - itís trading.

    The minimalists just want to spend time together.

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