Forgoing presents at Christmas

paper bags near wall
Photo by on

First of all I know that “it’s not even Thanksgiving yet”… Well just in case you are someone like me who preps ahead by doing as much shopping in advance or maybe your family does their family holiday planning at Thanksgiving, pulling names for “Secret Santa” or general Christmas gathering plans at Thanksgiving…. So yes I’m talking about Christmas right now, that doesn’t mean you have to bust out the holly, start belting out carols, and change all drinks to peppermint mocha or eggnog. I’m just talking about the gift-giving aspect.

So forgoing presents at Christmas…

“Wait, what? Forgoing… as in… NO GIFTS!?”

Yup. That’s what I said.

But… is it Christmas then? To me the answer is yes.

I don’t know about you but finances have been tight for a lot of people in my life including me and as an adult childfree woman with all immediate relatives that I celebrate the holidays with being adults (as in everyone is over the age of 18 except for one nephew who is 17)… I approached my parents, siblings, and my sibling’s children and made the bold statement of… “I am not doing gifts for Christmas this year.” I told them I would be baking cookies for our Christmas family gathering and will have take-home boxes should anyone want to bring some home, otherwise I wasn’t doing any gift giving and that I don’t want any of them to purchase anything for me either. And I was both surprised and not surprised at all by their reaction…. They all said, “cool, that’s great”.   Then my husband broached the topic of forgoing gifts with my in-laws as well and their reaction was the same.

Now let me tell you they all agreed, not because I am a crappy gift giver or that I guilt them into getting me something of equal value or any of that… It’s that we all agree it sucks having to stress over getting gifts and somewhere along the line the holidays became about presents.

Don’t get me wrong, I know that my family, friends, and I like getting presents and we all like giving them and seeing the joy on the faces of people we love and care about. But somewhere down the line it became about “topping” the previous year’s gift, getting the thing that was ‘just right’, making sure everyone got something of equal value,  and the worst part was that the holiday gatherings turned into being ABOUT the gifts. And it makes sense, whether it was because some family members had to split their time between multiple holiday events, had to make it to church/work, or just so focused on getting it done; I have witnessed dinners rushed, games stopped, and jovial conversations interrupted just so we can all be in the same room to exchange gifts. (Which usually lasted about ten minutes as careful wrapping was torn to shreds and “loot” was gathered.)

Beyond family gatherings… Now there are very few people outside of family I exchange with.  Usually just my husband, my best friend, and work’s Secret Santa.

My husband and I just had a lovely belated Honeymoon at Disney World, and if we thought money was tight before, whew, it’s even tighter now… And we thought about it, sometimes we miss the mark or go waaaay over the spending limit or get each  each other something the other already bought. So we have decided to buy something together to enjoy on Christmas (we are still working out the details maybe a LEGO ® set or a game we can both enjoy) and then do little surprises in the stockings. (Basically like candy, socks, and lip balm type of things.)

So that makes my shopping list this year: My work’s Secret Santa, some stocking stuffers for my husband, a few toys for Toys for Tots drive I go to, and the simple exchange I do with my best friend that we’ve done since we’ve known each other… (And TBH I bought 90% of my bestie’s gift already and I already bought the toys for the drive.)


Honestly, I am relieved, slightly weirded-out, and excited about the prospect of no gifts. Relieved that I don’t have to try to figure out what to get people, that I don’t have to be in the thick of holiday shopping madness, that I don’t have balance money, and that I could actually *gasp* ENJOY  the holidays.  But there is a small part of me that is thinking, is it Christmas without presents? Which is what led me to write this post. Yes, it is still Christmas. In fact, it might even be more so than previous years. I remember being a child and being excited by the wonder of the holiday, the sparkling lights in the dark winter night, the family all laughing together, the yummy treats, and more. Yes of course I was excited about Santa and the presents I would get but it was so much more with all those other aspects and when we are so focused on getting gifts with all their requirements (especially when we are strapped for cash etc.) we don’t let ourselves notice the glitz, enjoy the company, and truly taste the food. So I am excited to try this year with as little shopping as possible. To be present for people instead of buying presents; to focus on kindness and enjoy the season…

So basically I am here to tell you that

  • Christmas can still be Christmas without gifts
  • Self-care is not “selfish”. (It’s okay to make a decision for your overall health/happiness, such as forgoing gifts to relieve your stress/anxiety/financial burden or even purchasing something for yourself that you normally would have dropped hints and desperately hoped that someone bought you, now you can take a moment and get that item for yourself.)
  • That a lot of us are all stressed out (and even more so during the holidays), and maybe it’s time to remove some of that stress, and realize life isn’t perfect. And I feel as though removing the gift exchange aspect from the equation is a step in the right direction.
  • It’s okay to shorten your shopping list, you can just exchange with your significant other or just participate in the holiday gift exchange… or to not get any gifts at all.
  • That it’s okay to switch things up, including what some may consider “tradition”. (Maybe your family can opt for a Secret Santa or a White Elephant gift exchange… or maybe they will be like my family and agree that no gifts is best .)


No matter what you got this!

& Happy Thanksgiving!




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