the greatest gifts

Two weeks of full-on family. My nephews were visiting from Alberta last weekend, followed by birthday dinner on Thursday, then we hosted a party on Saturday, followed by another birthday dinner on Sunday and finally my sister and her husband will be in town this Thursday. But it’s last night’s dinner that I want to talk about…

The love of my life and I have often talked about how to cut back on gifts. With my family, it is no problem. We don’t exchange with my sister or brother. My mom still likes to do gifts but she is infinitely practical (last year she put together a food hamper for us!) and not materialistic. She is happy with second hand, re-gifted and home made presents. I think she’d be happy not getting any, but she loves to give and it doesn’t feel right to receive without giving something back. For my niece and nephews, we usually try and give them an activity. Last year we contributed to a family pass at their local sports complex, for example.

With O’s family, giving gifts has been an important part of their traditions. Over the last couple of years, with three of us at various times in university, we have set limits on the amount we spend but not giving gifts hasn’t seemed like an option. Yesterday there was a shift. After dinner, we talked. Everyone decided that this would be our last year giving birthday gifts among the adults. For Christmas, we decided to draw names and set a price limit so we would each have one person to buy for. We’ll still do stockings. What made me happiest was the emphatic agreement that although we were cutting out gifts (mostly), we were not cutting out celebrations. Everyone wanted to make sure that we still got together as a family. Eating too much, singing “happy birthday”, playing silly games, snapping Christmas crackers and wearing paper crowns… these were important. Being together was important.

I’ve never minded birthdays but Christmas has always been so stressful. The sheer amount on cash you shell out in a short period of time has always been a financial strain. But I’m really looking forward to the holidays this year. Putting the focus on what’s truly important will be the best gift ever.

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