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Why We're Saying No to Gifts This Christmas

Gift-giving is expensive — and maybe even unnecessary


Published on: December 12, 2017


Growing up, Christmas morning was always celebrated around a tree, the scent of cinnamon rolls wafting through the house while my brother and I took turns present-shaking and covering the living room floor with shreds of wrapping paper and bows.

I never would’ve imagined it any other way until my boyfriend — who was raised Muslim and didn't observe Christmas until he moved to the U.S. 11 years ago — suggested an alternative tradition this year.

“How about we do a mini getaway?” he asked me and my 8-year-old daughter. Surprisingly, she was open to the idea and, after some discussion, I was on board as well.

My boyfriend and I have a 6-month-old son together, who obviously won’t know the difference yet. And my daughter questioned the Big Santa Secret earlier in the year so it seemed like the optimal time to make a shift from “things” to “experiences.”

It seemed like the optimal time to make a shift from 'things' to 'experiences'

At first, we tossed around the idea of hitting one of the big cities on our coast before deciding we’ve been there done that. Knowing that we have an upcoming spring trip to Morocco to visit — and meet — my boyfriend’s family, we coordinated the itinerary so our plane stops in a place my daughter always talks about: Paris. We'll make this an extended “layover” and hit some of the major sightseeing places. Believe it or not, it was even cheaper than spending a few days in New York City.

As excited as we are to go on a Christmas adventure, my daughter has still had moments where you can tell she wonders what Christmas will be like without the traditional gift-giving. Like many kids her age, she’s obsessed with those “surprise toys.” But, since I saw her interest piqued when travel was brought up, we made the executive parenting decision to take her excitement and run with it; hoping that in the long run, it’ll add more value to her life than toys she will ultimately forget after a week or two.

In making this change, I wondered whether there other families who honor the holiday season in a non-traditional way. As our society is learning more and more about how the abundance of "stuff" doesn't equal happiness, are other families starting to cut back on the gifting of material goods?

Celebrity mom and dad Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher have a no-gift rule in their household. According to a TODAY story, the couple has done away with presents for their kids and have also asked their own parents to pick one gift if they really must give their grandchildren something.

Gift-giving is expensive — and maybe even unnecessary. A recent USA Today article asserts that Americans spend an average of $967 in order to complete their holiday shopping. But the most shocking statistic? Each year, approximately $9.5 billion, or $71 per person, is spent on gifts that people don’t even want! This means these gifts will go unused, returned, donated or thrown away.

While not every family is ready to ditch gift-giving entirely, many are looking for ways to create holiday traditions that revolve around giving to others, such as “adopting a family” to shop for or making cards for a local senior center or children’s hospital.

Celebrating Christmas in a completely different way isn't for everyone. Even for us, we'll consider this year a trial run before deciding whether to make it a seasonal tradition. No matter how you spend the holidays, we can all use the season as a reminder that we have the ability to make a difference in someone else’s life — whether it’s giving our time or a “gift” that will be cherished for the years to come.

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