Holiday Survival Tips
At New American Dream we hear from many families who feel their holidays are overly focused on material gifts. If you are in this boat, as I am, now is an ideal time to talk with loved ones about making changes—while the holidays are on their minds, too, but they haven’t done much in the way of shopping or preparation yet. (If you have the kind of family that starts buying holiday gifts in June, you can at least plant the seed this year without trying to make sweeping changes.)
In my family, gift-giving is a big part of our celebration, and my relatives are proud of their generosity. I’ve always been hesitant to suggest changes that are too different from our regular traditions. What I have done instead is give homemade, second-hand, and thrifty gifts, like used books and hand-knitted scarves, without insisting anyone else do anything differently. I also began giving gifts of donation several years ago to relatives who truly did not need more stuff. I’ve been delighted to receive similar gifts in return the last couple of years, including donations, fair trade handicrafts, and custom-made jewelry and framed photographs from surprisingly enthusiastic family members.
TIP: If you feel your relatives are open to direct suggestions (or you want to test the waters), there are many options you could consider. Such as:
Perhaps the adults in your family would agree to only give gifts to the children this year.
Or perhaps extended families could give one gift to each household (such as a board game, tennis set, museum membership, or tickets to a play), instead of multiple gifts to each person.
You could have a White Elephant party where each person gives one second-hand gift instead of a new gift to every person and the gift-opening celebration becomes a fun competitive sport (this tradition is one of my favorites, and a highlight of New American Dream’s office party every year).
Or you could set a flat dollar limit on gift-buying per person—a move that encourages creative, silly, second-hand, and homemade gifts.
For more inspiration, “Recycled Christmas” is one of my favorite holiday stories about how a real family worked together to do something different, responsible, and fun with their celebration. If you have any tips or new traditions that worked for you, I’d love to hear them.
Cheers and good luck!
Jenn and the staff of New American Dream