This year, for the first time ever, the family tried an experiment: no gifts between adults of the family. We got together for the food, and there were still gifts under the tree, but they were for the two children. Whatever couples decided to give each-other wouldn't happen at this event, but in private. We tried several things over the years, secret santa (I hated that), everyone gives to everyone else (strain on the budget of some). And so on. But Christmas was always stressful. There are two reasons gifting didn't work.
The first is that, as a family, none of us are really on the same planet. We all love each-other but have our separate fields of interest. Quite frankly, I wouldn't know where to begin in order to buy my sister a gift. Nor her a gift for me. We fixed that with an exchange of wishlists. And then we decided on a relative budget. But as I explained to them, this more or less equated to all of us putting a 50$ bill in a hat, then each of us picking a random 50$ bill from that hat. I often tried to go outside the list, with mixed results. Exchanging gift cards is even closer to that. So meh.
Above that though, I think the primary reason goes more along the line of: We all have more than enough crap as it is. We're lucky to all be relatively well-off. Whatever we really need, we can get. We all hear that the essential thing on Christmas is to spend time with loved ones. Wasn't it time to focus on that?
Yesterday was the big Christmas Eve party. Here are the results:
Result #1: the pile of gifts was much less obsece and shameful than that of years past. It was still there, and it was still a lot, but it didn't make me want to go out of the house and scream apologies to the less fortunate.
Result #2: More time. The time spend unwrapping my gifts, I instead spend with my nephews building up their new Star Wars lego sets and other gifts. We also managed to play cards, something we always think we'll do but always end up skipping. Wii fit was also part of it. More quality time, less crap.
Result #3: Although a few family members (3 out of 5, actually) proclaimed that it was very hard for them not to buy gifts for people, all of them agreed after the unwrapping that it was for the best.
Result #4: It started and ended way earlier. Less preparations means we could get together at about 6ish. And I was home by midnight. None of us are getting any younger, and none(?) of us try to pretend we're still young. So getting to bed at 3am isn't a requirement any longer.
Conclusions: It was a very good decision overall. And I'm sure we'll stick with that. For me, it means that the forced Christmas consumerist drive is at an end. For mom, it means the stress of "getting the right thing" is gone. For sis it means focusing on getting gifts for her sons. For bro, it means his budget isn't as strained as it was before. Win. Win. Win. Win. Win.