Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Gift of Presence

Quick. Name three gifts you received last Christmas. Can you?

Giving gifts is a lot of fun, but at Christmas it is also a lot of worrying about what to buy, fighting the crowded stores, and spending hours wrapping.

The materialism of Christmas doesn't really fall into the "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without" philosophy. A greener Christmas could mean doing away with the wrapping paper. However, our family was discovering that a lot of gifts ended up at Goodwill or on a garage sale in just a few short years. We were giving and getting things that we didn't really need. There had to be a solution.

The fun part of Christmas has always been the gathering together to play and share traditional holiday foods and drinks. The gifts were often just an interruption in our family holiday. Once we figured that out, we began giving the gift of presence.

Last year, the Mr., K, L, and I decided to take a trip together instead of buying gifts for each other. We went to Nashville and had a great time. We laughed, lazed, went to shows, and spent several days together; something we don't get to do very often or for any length of time with our adult daughters.

We were hoping to fly somewhere this year, but with the economy and different vacation schedules-- we decided against it. So, we are headed to Branson for four days over Christmas break. The Mr. and I are picking up the cost of the condo, and the kids are planning the food and doing the cooking. I'm sure there will be a couple of shows to attend, some swimming and hot tubbing, and a lot of games to play. Nothing is carved in stone except for where we are staying. Oh, and that I have to bring the rum slush!

And acutally, we were only following my family's lead. Several years ago, my dad and siblings decided to forgo the gifts and just get together during the holiday season. We are gathering at the farm this weekend for soup and Christmas snacks. All of us will be there, with the exception of my little sister and her family in California. Even without them, we will be quite a mob descending on Dad and Grandma B.

A couple of little nephews will keep us entertained. In the past, we have gone sledding behind the 4-wheeler or enjoyed a hay rack ride. We've sung in the brother's choir for one Sunday morning service. We've gone for walks, watched football, and there was one wonderful year where appetizers were delivered on trays to various locations in the house.

I don't miss the gifts. I don't miss the agonizing over the right present, the guilt of spending too much, or the last minute dash to finish the wrapping.

I love spending time with the family. In doing away with the gifts, I've discovered the only gift I really want or need for Christmas--time with my family. It always fits and it won't end up on any garage sale. The perfect gift? The gift of presence.


ELK said...

thank you for this special post about the true spirit.

Shannon said...

Ahhh, I envy you. With small children in the mix, it is harder to do without the gifts. But maybe now is the time to start teaching that...I will say the best Christmas we had as a family was a vacation to Florida during Christmas break in lieu of gifts. We made so many memories from that trip that usually get brought up and talked about with every Christmas since. Good reminder.

Debbie said...

What wonderful gifts to give each other! And next year, you won't have to rack your brain trying to remember what each one gave you. You will have great memories to remember. Good for you!

Katie @ Can't Get There said...

How fun! Presence instead of presents. I could definitely see the sibling doing that - converting Christmas to a sibs-only getaway when we could all get away from things.

Steve Gravano said...

That's such a great thing to do. You're right about the material stuff.

Heidi said...

It's taken me forever to get there, but I'm finally feeling okay with letting the gifting go a little bit. You're right about the gift of presence being the best gift! My entire extended fam is coming over here on Christmas day- except for Pilgrim, of course, and I know we will have a wonderful time of laughter and food and games and photo shoots with the cousins and Fash :) This was a great post!

ols1 said...

The true spirit of Christmas is about giving - you are so right. Whether it is of time to each other, presents or both. I love the whole experience but I still have a little one who "believes" and I have teenager going through the selfish years. I think she would need therapy if I said all she was getting for Christmas was my presence.

Puna said...

This is a nice reminder of what true Christmas spirit is about. Family.

gayle said...

My husband's family used to do that. We would all do something fun together and not exchange gifts. I can't remember how it changed back to gift giving, but it did. My MIL is the boss, so I don't feel comfortable suggesting we go back to no gifts!