We’ve all been to awkward Christmas celebrations at work or with distant relatives and not really known how our gifts would be received. Even with people you’re close with, sometimes that well-intentioned gift just doesn’t go over the way we imagined. Plus the focus being about gifts means that the holiday can feel empty for some. For these reasons and others many families are opting out of gift giving in the hopes of achieving a simpler and more joyful Christmas Day.
In many families adults may get a secret Santa or might participate in a white elephant gift exchange. However, even this pared back style of celebration, where gifts are limited, is a little too much for some families.
Instead, many celebrations will have gifts for the children and none for the adults. The goal is to really enjoy the time spent with loved ones, watching holiday movies or baking for instance, without the stress of budgeting and shopping for gifts. With the pressure of decorating, cooking, and making sure the house is spotless for company, many hosts already have their hands full at the holidays.
In the old days many families would have had few gifts to give each other, something homemade and small usually if there was anything at all. The focus of the day would have been eating rich foods (which they didn’t normally have) and enjoying the respite from work – one of the few holidays where workers were free for a day.
Dancing, singing Christmas carols, and doing parlor games would have been on the docket for Christmas back then and it often brought families closer together.
However, in the modern world we’ve become focused on giving gifts as a sign of love. The tradition of opening a mountain of gifts on Christmas morning is now cannon for many families and has been immortalized in films like A Christmas Story and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, both of which highlight the sometimes strange gifts that relations may thrust upon unsuspecting recipients.
This style of celebration does leave something to be desired in many families, which is why this new trend of abstaining from gifts is catching on. Another element of this new trend is cutting down on waste, as many Christmas gifts end up being tossed out. And, let’s not forget all the wrapping that gets thrown out as well.
There are ways to waste less and still give gifts, like giving one small gift wrapped in a tea towel or other reusable cloth. However, for some no-gift families even this is a stretch.
Some of the reasoning behind the trend also stems from a disdain for clutter. To some, Christmas gifts represent yet more belongings that will have to be managed, cleaned, and stored for years to come- something that isn’t appealing to everyone.
In place of the time-consuming gift-giving ritual, many families are coming up with new traditions all their own. Some play cards, do crafts, or bake cookies, while others have revised rules of gift giving (like only re-gifting and heirlooms).
Whatever the reason, the end result seems to be less stress, less money spent, and less waste. And, this is (Christmas) music to many ears.