5 Things to Do Instead of Exchanging Gifts This Holiday Season

Photo by Lotus Head from Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa.

Photo by Lotus Head from Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa.

I originally wrote this post in September of 2013, but I’ve been getting a lot of hits from people wondering how they can celebrate the holidays without doing a gift exchange. Rather than reinventing the wheel, I thought I’d bump up something that has remained popular.

Yes, I know Christmas is still three months away, but retailers are already beginning to receive and shelve Christmas merchandise and many people begin shopping early. If you want to join me, now is the time to begin thinking about what you’d like to do instead with your loved ones.

1. Take a Trip. It can be a two week trip to somewhere warm and sunny or a snowy weekend at a friend’s cabin in the woods. Travelling can be as thrifty or luxurious as your budget allows, and giving the gift of a new experience is a great way to ease into a no-present rule.

2. Travel Back in Time. Ok, so not literally. But you can investigate how people celebrated Christmas before the holiday became so commercialized. There have always been people who worried it was too focused on the exchange of gifts, of course, but from what I’ve read the number of gifts that were expected 100 years ago was smaller than it is today and more emphasis was placed on its religious significance as a holiday. If I was going to celebrate Christmas I’d focus on creating a delicious meal that produced so many leftovers I wouldn’t need to cook again for a week. 😉

3. Pool Your Resources to Help Someone Else. My Mennonite grandparents collected money from the entire family one year to assemble care packages for people living with HIV in Africa. The first wave of grandkids was old enough by that time that we really didn’t need a mound of presents. My grandmother loves Christmas too much to entirely get rid of her present buying habits, but we were able to slowly phase into more charitable spending patterns.

4. Play. Bring board games to your get together.  Go carolling.  Organize a snowball fight or snowman building contest if you live in the right climate for it.

5. Visit a Nursing Home. This may require prior planning with the director of the nursing home, but there are a lot of elderly and sick people who won’t be getting any visitors at Christmas (or at any other time of the year). I’d much rather spend Christmas visiting people who are lonely than receiving another body spray package or sweater that I’m never going to use.

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