Have you had this conversation in your head, too? It goes something like this: “This is all just too much. You’ve spoiled me. I forgot so-and-so! There are simply too many people to exchange gifts with at this gathering. What could we do instead?”
This is the perfect jumping off point for so many new traditions. Consider this your invitation to try gifting differently, this year or next. Get some supporters or try it out on your own. Today, I’ll give you seven ideas worth trying.
Setting the Mood for Meaningful and Minimalist Gift Giving
Find the Pandora Advent stations—or at least the closest thing to them (Instrumental Christmas Music is a good one). Even classical radio stations will regularly play seasonal tunes precisely because there are so many to choose from. With all of these options, I find that I’m able to get into the spirit without the Chipmunks and Elvis chiming in each hour.
When I get in this headspace—it doesn’t matter if I’m in the car, the kitchen, or in the mix of wrapping and decorating—I’m instantly calmer and cheerier. This cannot be undervalued as we sift through the commercialism and rush that this season can bring. At the end of the day, our hope is to be prepared to welcome those in our midst; specifically, the Christ.
7 Ways to Gift, Differently
1. The Three Wise Men
Friends of ours have introduced us to their practice of giving gifts in threes, just as the Wise Men chose three gifts for the Christ Child. This has worked well in our family. So few of our extended relatives can resist sending “a little something.” And suddenly our kiddos are peppered with gifts they cannot track. Another approach I’ve appreciated includes four categories of practical gifts that serve a purpose without winding up in the donate bin two weeks later:
- Something you want
- Something you need
- Something to wear
- Something to read (Consider Iceland’s Jólabókaflóð, or “book flood,” which includes exchanging books with everyone on Christmas Eve and spending the evening reading those new books.)
2. Thinking Globally
A tradition my parents began at a neighborhood Christmas party was to put a basket out where folks could leave their donations to the Heifer Project. At the end of the evening, we counted the money collected. The children chose how they’d like to use the pooled money to help families in developing nations become self-sufficient.
3. Embrace St. Nicholas Day and Epiphany
This can be a tough sell with little kids. But we have such a rich array of options for celebrating the coming of Christ. Gifts that fit in a shoe! A delicious meal on Christmas day, followed by an evening of time together, waiting for Epiphany and the opening of gifts. Simply soaking in the goodness and beauty of the occasion; a gift a day for the twelve days of Christmas, as the song goes.
4. Thinking Locally
This idea can go one of two ways. Supporting local small businesses in your community is a way to support the work and dignity of families in your own neighborhood, as opposed to big box stores and warehouses. Doing this hits at the core of several Catholic social teaching themes. There are also frequent opportunities to support local charities, meet the needs of folks on the Giving Tree through coat drives, and so on. If you have kids, this may be one of their limited experiences in choosing a gift they’d like to give, which is in itself a gift and grace to pass along.
5. Doing Homework
While beginning your list of things to purchase, do some reading. Not the reviews on Amazon, but reviews of the company. Does the company honor its workers and pay them a just wage? Will this product last a long time? Who benefits from this sale? Was this garment made in a sweatshop or by the creative hands of a skilled craftsperson? Clearly, you pay for the difference. And you get what you pay for. This decreases the amount of clutter in our homes and the frequency with which we replace products. This, in turn, allows for us to be more generous with our resources.
6. Set Parameters
Put limits on what you will spend on gifts. Who doesn’t appreciate this? Putting parameters around gift-giving, such as all homemade, hand-written letters, all second-hand, all free, all charitable contributions, etc., changes the gift exchange entirely. The possibilities are endless. Each have the potential to make the gifting much more fun for the giver as well.
7. Not “Gifts,” but Experiences
It seems like more people are catching on to this concept. It gives us something to look forward to after the gift wrap and tinsel are put away. Tickets to see a movie, a city-wide scavenger hunt, walking through an art exhibit, taking a Zumba class together, etc. can have a longer-lasting impact than even the most well-intentioned presents. If the recipient is someone who loves quality time, this is a slam dunk. This is ultimately what we celebrate this season: Jesus’ desire to spend time with us, in the flesh.
One week into Advent and the anticipation is growing. We’ve started our journey, and hopefully the commercialism and Santa-themed Advent calendars aren’t distracting us from our focus. Maybe it feels like marathon training at this point. A challenge to maintain the calm, to remain in the season, to make our homes and rituals places of peace and welcome.
I think it’s timely to be reminded that the first Christmas took place in a barn. It doesn’t get more minimal than that. Of course, it’s fun to embrace the beauty and welcome friends and strangers on our doorstep. Hopefully by spending less time chasing, wrapping, and mailing gifts, we have more time to enjoy the Reason for the season.The first Christmas took place in a barn. It doesn’t get more minimal than that. #BISblog // Click To Tweet
May we each be gifted with the grace of enough.7 Ways to Gift Differently with Meaningful and Minimalist Gift Giving #BISblog // Click To Tweet
Katie Cassady is a regular contributor to the BIS blog. She is a wife and mom to two little girls in Denver, CO. Steeped in theological reflection, beekeeping, and motherhood, she is appreciative of any and all wisdom she can glean from those living intentional lives of faith. Find out more about her here.