Gray Thursday. Black Friday. Cyber Monday. Giving Tuesday. Green Monday. Stamp and Ship Day. Super Saturday. Gift Card Exchange Day.
November and December have become frenzied months of shopping days and deadlines to pressure us into believing that the gifts we give are more important than to whom we give them.
Teens are handed a wad of cash or a credit card to, “Go buy your aunt a nice gift for Christmas,” or “find something under $20 to give to your brother.”
Dozens of articles promise to help you dodge the stress bullet during the holidays with the same stuff I have been reading for years: “Make your expectations known in advance,” negotiate how much money teens can spend on gifts for their friends, make a list of items that have been requested.” Seriously?
What would happen if you made a family decision to boycott Christmas shopping and replace presents with presence? Well, 15 years ago, my family did just that, and the results have been amazing and the benefits last far beyond and physical gift!
My kids were 6 and 8-years-old, I asked my kids what they remember getting for Christmas last year. They couldn’t remember. I asked my sister, my mom and my brother all of whom struggled to think of something. So I made the decision to change how we do Christmas.
It was a very simple idea to stop giving “presents” and give “presence” – a gift that could be redeemed sometime in the next 365 days and shift the focus to the “gift of time” with each other instead of giving material things. For example, when I opened the envelope from my daughter the first year, her gift to me was breakfast on the roof together eating bagels, drinking orange juice and watching hot air balloons fly over our house. Because we lived in Michigan, I had to wait several months for the snow to melt before I could “redeem” my gift. Priceless!
My son’s first gift to me was to go to a local driving range together where they offered a free golf-club-making class. After building a new club, we each hit a bucket of balls. Perfect!
Here’s how it works:
Make a decision to stop buying “stuff.” That means anything that is tangible.
Sign up for Living Social, Groupon or any number of “event” sources in your local community or just research upcoming events.
Identify which family members will be the recipients of your “presence” anytime in the next 365 days.
Purchase an “event” for you and the recipient and place inside a Christmas card and write recipients name on the envelope.
Hang each “event” envelope like an ornament on the tree to be opened on Christmas by the recipient.
Write any specific event dates on your calendars and keep all “event” envelopes in one place to schedule throughout the year.
Enjoy this time with your family and friends and make memories that will last a lifetime – far longer than a new Smartphone!
For friends and family that live out of town, a visit would, of course, be the very best investment of time. Second to that, tickets to a concert with a friend or family member, a spa treatment or even an event you plan from afar could be deposited in the memory banks of love.
Now that my kids are older, I see the way have learned to value the gift of time. My son lives in Florida, and my daughter lives in California. This Christmas, he bought her a plane ticket to visit him this spring. It doesn’t get any better than that!
This change in how we experienced Christmas as a family was so simple and has grown to be so meaningful. Instead of tearing through gifts on one day of the year, we look forward to spending quality time over the next 12 months with those we love the most. Give it a try; it’s never to late to start!