This year we decided to phase out physical Christmas gifts and give experiences instead.
We contacted the adults in the family and asked permission not to exchange gifts. By asking them instead of informing them, we felt that it allowed them to decide too.
Then we suggested that we schedule vacation time with them and planned some new adventures. By intentionally scheduling tentative plans now, it makes a quiet statement that we value them. This lends the element of excitement to Christmas that might otherwise be lost. Everyone seemed relieved not to have the stress of buying.
For the small children, we all agreed to buy them small gifts that would last such as educational toys and books. For the older kids, we made gifts such as reading lamps. They also received Kindle gift cards for books. This is still experience rather than acquiring more things that may or may not be used.
As I look back on my younger years the one thing that I wish is that I would have valued experiences more than having material goods. The numerous clothes that hung in my closet that I saved for someday when they would fit me never were important. The five pairs of boots, endless shoes, and a treasure chest of jewelry didn’t make up for the time that we missed traveling and seeing the world.
The memories we made by taking the time to stop and see unusual sites and even the everyday wonders that were right in our backyard are priceless. I can’t change the past or get back the time that was lost but I can change what we do now and in the future. So, we won’t be taking big presents home to wrap after a shopping trip to the mall or click away on so many retail sites online. We’ll be taking sleigh rides, sitting by the fire telling stories, and spending valuable time with each other. Inventing family games, challenges, and activities are Gift #1.