25 Days of Christmas, Day 21: Crazy people out shopping

christmas truckThis was Perry’s first day home after a week working out of town, but he and some of the older girls worked at VF, so I spent much of the day running secret Christmas errands.  Because they’re secret, I can’t tell you where I went or what I bought.

I have gifts for most (but not all) of my children, a couple of small things for Perry, and nearly nothing for the extended family.  I did some shopping on Amazon but they just don’t have everything, and don’t have the best prices on everything, so I was forced to venture forth today.  Personally, I long for the old days we read about in Little House, back when Christmas gifts were mostly for little kids and consisted of a penny and a stick of candy.  My ideal Christmas: we give each child a small gift on Christmas eve, then spend Christmas day – or the next 12 days –  in feasting and fellowship, celebrating the birth and life of our Savior.

Am I a scrooge?  Maybe, but it’s not about the money.  It’s about the stress and pressure to find The Perfect Gift for everyone you love, and if they don’t make your list you obviously don’t count them among your loved ones.  I know not everyone thinks or feels that way, but it’s easy to imagine they do and put false pressure upon yourself.  Or am I just neurotic?  Go ahead. Answer honestly.

The sad, tired faces of the cashiers also tug at my heartstrings everywhere I go.  They look like people in a refugee camp: resigned, overwhelmed, wishing they were anywhere but here.  Those poor people must dread the holiday season.

The traffic was INSANE today.  The girls said it wasn’t bad between VF and home, but that’s because every car in the city was between me and whatever store I was heading to.  I can’t believe how many crazy people were out today doing last-minute shopping, and I bet it will be even worse on Monday and Tuesday, when I’m doing last-minute shopping.  Yes, call me crazy.

Grim, I know.  Cheer me up.  How did you celebrate Christmas in your home today?


  1. I buy gifts year-round, in multiples. If I see something that looks like a nice gift, I buy several. Then, I allocate all of the things I have collected a couple of weeks before Christmas. When I am doing that part, I ask myself “Is it small enough?” I don’t want to give the children too many gifts or too big of a gift and have them start expecting that every year. Nor do I want to give something too big to extended family or neighbors and have them feel guilty about what they got us (or didn’t get us). I don’t want to help fuel the Christmas stress trap and drag my kids into that as they get older. I no longer try to buy the perfect gift for anyone. Just a plate of cookies is fine if I don’t know what to get them. If I don’t have time to make plates of cookies, a single decorated cookie would be fine. Honestly, any little thing is fine. A card is fine. I refuse to feel guilty when someone gives me a gift and I have something smaller or nothing at all for them. Some years I give to my siblings and some years I skip it and just give to their kids. Some years I give their kids something tiny (dollar store items) and some years it is larger. There is no expectation because I have not fueled the expectation. It makes my life less stressful and my siblings’ lives knowing they don’t have to compete in trying to give a certain level of gift to us. Repeat gifts are fine too, as in giving someone the same thing year after year so they come to look forward to it. It is not unusual for my kids to receive just one shared item plus all the stuff they get from others. This year we gave our kids walkie talkies with enough handsets for each of them. There is no stress when you just have to think of one gift for all the kids. If you are finding Christmas too stressful, it is up to you to change that, and in so doing, you make it less stressful for many others over time. Buying year-round has another plus side: you always have an assortment of gifts on hand for occasions that arise throughout the year.

  2. I was so relieved when I read your post. I’m not the only one who feels this way. Right now the gift stuff is driving me nuts. Lots of extended family (with few or no kids and much more money) give gifts and I feel obliged to give them something back but almost always feel guilty it’s not “enough.” I wish I didn’t have to exchange gifts with anyone other than those living in my house! That’s how I feel but I feel “bah humbug” for saying it. So glad others understand.

  3. 1) I do my very best to get all the gifts purchased (or at least planned and ordered) before Thanksgiving. Then I make it my personal goal to not set foot in any stores other than my little grocery store between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Ahhhh…makes me so happy to stay home and enjoy the other fun parts of Advent without having to venture out into the Christmas crazies!

    2) With a few carefully chosen exceptions, we only purchase gifts for our children. Our children make thoughtful gifts for their grandparents, but that’s all we do for extended family. After a year or two of this, the precedent was set and people seem to have accepted our decision without any hurt feelings.

    3) Since many of the people that we would customarily give gifts to (people who have helped my husband in his work, etc.) have oodles more money than we do, we often give them the gift of a fancy dinner all together at our home. That way we can honor them and bless them without giving them more “stuff.” And homemade bread is ALWAYS a hit in this world where people think making bread at home is some sort of magical process (Shhh!!! Don’t tell how easy it really is, it will spoil the effect of the gift!)

    4) Thanks for all the posts in November and December! It’s fun to read every day.

  4. I completely agree. I sit around and ask my friends, “So…who all do you buy for?”, “How much do you spend?”, “Don’t you feel bad knowing they spent so much more than you?” It’s ridiculous! Sadly, we’ve kind of just turned our backs on all of it and only buy for our kids and no one else – not even each other. It gets really awkward though, because then my immediate family does do Christmas without us and they still get our kids gifts, which I feel guilty about even though they don’t have children to give to (or we would to reciprocate). I still don’t think we’ve figured out what’s best.

  5. I don’t blame you, Kim, for feeling that way about shopping/ gifts and Christmas! It can get crazy. We give the children a few gifts but don’t give things to each other or extended family, except for a name-drawing gift exchange and that’s only for 2 people (one for me and one for my husband). Instead of getting things for each other, my husband will take me shopping (and go with me!) or let me get other things that I want or need and call that my “gift”. =) His “gift” is whatever he wants, when he wants it. This may sound old-fashioned but, he makes the money! 😉 (That’s the way my parents always did it, too.) We do this for birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays.
    Family is about so much more than gifts. I pray the children will learn this, even though we are poor teachers. =)

  6. About 10 years ago we started changing Christmas as we use to know it after we saw how there was no way to give gifts at Christmas and it not promote selfishness. We had a hard time justifying creating a situation/environment that just promoted attitudes we did not like to see in our children all in the name of “tradition” (and any other time were trying to correct these attitudes!).

    Deep down, there is just no way, no matter how you sugar coat and explain it, to only focus on Christ’s incarnation if you give gifts (but feel free to disagree with me). Sure, you can read the Christmas story before you dive into the gifts, but what is everyone really thinking about??? The gifts…not the gift giver (especially the children). Another big problem we had was the waste of time and money that was spent on people buying them gifts they really didn’t want, like, or need. We have slowly evolved to where we are now.

    We ended up recognizing the day of Christmas because of cultural reasons (like because most of the USA does and everything is shut down!), but we do not do any of the rat race Christmas stuff. Our children understand how “the world” does Christmas, but we’ve explained to them why we do it differently. We talk about Santa, elves, etc, so they will not be ignorant, but for the most part we take the day and talk about the birth of Jesus, what it meant, and the gold, frankincense and myrrh that was given to Jesus. With no gift giving going on, there is no competition for their attention.

    As far as gifts for our children, we have chosen to each year buy them a gold coin that they may have when they leave the our home (this doesn’t mean much to a 3 year old, but it will to a 20 year old). They get to hold real gold, just like was given to Jesus. We bought frankincense and myrrh incense and burn it (powerful if you’ve never smelled it before!) so they can see the gifts that Jesus received…and we talk about why Jesus might have been given these gifts. We expect no gifts from our extended family, but those who like giving gifts, we also give in return, but will give a “family gift” instead of to the individuals.

    The Bible does not command us to celebrate Christmas, but it does say to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus. Therefore, we have decided to take about a month before the Resurrection and focus on the prophecies about Jesus, including his birth. We will light candles each day for each of the prophecies. This is a visual for the children to see how God was preparing to bring the Light into the world! Then about 12 days before Resurrection Day we like to go through the Resurrection Eggs and as we do this, we blow a candle each day until there is no light left…just like it was on Good Friday. On Resurrection Sunday, we light all the candles again, put up white lights all over the house and celebrate the Light of the World conquering Death.

    This has given our children more of a big picture about the life of Jesus. No, you don’t have to do Christmas like “the world”, do it as you feel God is leading your family to do it. Your children will never know what they are missing if you communicate with them about the “whys” you are choosing to do things this/that way. Breaking out of the rat race is very freeing…and celebrating the birth of our Lord is not something that is suppose to be a burden. Our celebration is very simple…just like the birth of Jesus.

    OH….and, in case you think we are big hum-buggers, we still do lots of “Winter” traditions, such as lights, hot chocolate, wassail, etc. These fun winter things have just been intermingled with “Christmas” for so long that they are often hard to separate.

  7. Julia Zuniga says:

    I feel exactly like you. Christmas creates so much stress on me. A few years ago, my husband and I stopped exchanging presents – I wanted to choose what he got me, and he didn’t like that….but then I was almost never happy with what *he* chose for me. I wanted him to tell me what he wanted, but he wanted to be surprised. Sometimes I picked well for him, sometimes I don’t think I did. My children are now 14, 12 (almost) and 9. When they were small and believed in Santa, it was pretty fun – I could find all kinds of great stocking stuffers and presents that didn’t cost a great deal. While the 9 year old isn’t too hard (although she loves American Girl stuff and let’s not get into how pricey those things are; even the Target knockoffs aren’t very inexpensive), but the boys want video games and phones. Getting gifts for my nieces and nephews (all between the ages of 7and 14) have resulted in gift cards. They all live in different cities; so I’m not familiar enough to know what they would like – I just ask the parents and money or gift cards is what they say. Sheesh! Mix all this in with the pressure of decorating the house, doing gingerbread houses, baking cookies and other goodies…..and school parties. I’ve begun to really dread the season – and that’s not what Christmas is all about.

  8. I’m enjoying a seasonal lull in volume in my job, though I won’t enjoy it when I get my next check with the lower hours than usual. I had been entertaining thoughts of venturing into a retail-intensive area after church, but your post reminded me of experiences there in pre-Christmas-days past so I’ve nixed the idea. I’ll come directly home and make another batch of chicken soup for my DH, who has a miserable cold.

  9. We celebrated Christmas today by being treated by friends to the second Hobbit in the theaters and to pizza afterwards in our home and talking. For our part we gave them a Christmas tree which they will enjoy decorating tomorrow. It was an enjoyable day. Many people ask me if I’m ready for Christmas. I know they mean shopping-wise. I look bemused and say of course and that I’m always ready for Christmas. I refuse to be made to feel it’s all about the work of shopping for and wrapping gifts. I think people make standard comments and don’t think of what they are saying. I like Christmas shopping. No matter how limited or grand my finances.

  10. I feel forced to exchange gifts with relatives. It’s truly a horrible feeling. Everyone has so much more (things) than we do but they still expect a gift exchange. I decided this year that since my husband and I go without gifts so we can give to others, maybe we shouldn’t be buying gifts that wont be appreciated for them. We made gifts-soap scrub, eye masks, hand warmers, decorative pens, candied nuts, chocolate dipped pretzels, magnet boards, decorative vases/jars, and some snacks…we’ve had fun. We’ve thought of others. We’ve bonded. We spent $30 on dozens of gifts for 10 people who equate love with gift giving. They have stuff but we have a close knit family who had a great time.

    I was able to buy my husband suspenders, warm socks and thermals. He lost his job a few months ago. He’s been working with a man from our church cutting trees, building walls and delivering coal. I got him things he’s been mentioning he would buy if…

    My kids reminded me that it’s not about the gifts, it’s about family and about the birth of Christ. I’m a little high strung from bonding with the kids but it’s completely worth it.

  11. “It’s about the stress and pressure to find The Perfect Gift for everyone you love, and if they don’t make your list you obviously don’t count them among your loved ones. I know not everyone thinks or feels that way, but it’s easy to imagine they do and put false pressure upon yourself.”

    YES! YES! YES! This is the reason that my husband and I don’t exchange gifts to each other. Not for birthdays. Not for anniversaries. Not for Valentine’s Day. Not for Mother’s/Father’s Day. Not for Christmas. I (me, yes, the female in the relationship) couldn’t handle the pressure of having to pick out the perfect thing for him. It just stressed me out far more than it benefitted me to receive a gift.

    He was very hesitant to agree to this – he’s heard this arrangement backfire on many a married man, but I meant it and we’ve stuck to it in the 4 years since we’ve been engaged (now married). We’ll might have to re-think it once our kids are old enough to understand. (We have said that the kids need to get us something for Mother’s/Father’s Day when they’re old enough to understand that it’s showing appreciation, but we aren’t there yet).

    • We’ve been doing the same thing for 13 years now. My husband takes every holiday as an opportunity for us to spend time together and since we aren’t running around looking for the perfect gift, it is wonderful every single time.

      Also, to Kim, it might be a good idea to buy and read “Unplug the Christmas Machine.” I read it and implemented it into our lives. Starting in summer, when Christmas traditions are not as big a deal, my husband and I carefully addressed some of these problems you mention in this blog. What ended up happening was that both sides of the family decided that gifts for adults would stop. And we would get gifts only for unmarried children of the family. It is GREAT, I tell you.

  12. That rusty old truck would be considered the perfect gift by my 8 yo son! I have done no shopping, b/c there is no money for shopping this year. It’s keeping me inside with the kids, so I guess there’s an upside to everything.

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