Our family is in the midst of “The Great Christmas Experiment" this year: we opted for a family vacation in June instead of a gift exchange at Christmas. No, we are not anti Christmas…in fact, we love the season dearly. It is just that when we overdosed on gift exchanges last year, we (even my grandchildren) were overwhelmed by accumulation of stuff. Yes, we appreciated the thought and sacrifice that family members made on our behalf, but the stark truth is that we ended up with a bunch of stuff that we didn’t need. That reality was the catalyst which brought about the concept of creating memories instead of buying stuff. Memories, I am sure you agree, tend to appreciate in value as we recall them, look at the picture albums and view the videos. Stuff, on the other hand, depreciates in value. Most of us can’t recall what we received last year, let alone two or three or ten years ago. Therefore, immediately after Christmas 2010, we reserved a vacation home and challenged each family to contribute the same amount they normally spend on Christmas toward the vacation.
We did indeed take that vacation, and what a vacation it was! Five families converged on a fabulous beach front vacation home this past June and loved, loved, loved our time together. Want proof? Check out Eliza’s First Vacation, a three minute video you won’t regret watching. We called our vacation Christmas in June, which brings us to Christmas in December.
Our dilemma is this: because we are not having a gift exchange, what is the best way to celebrate our time together? Will we simply eat, play board games and watch vacation videos? Well, that would be OK, but gift giving traditions die hard. So here is our plan:
- We will give gifts to the little ones. Are we being hypocritical? Maybe, but, in fairness to them, “memories for stuff" was not their decision. And, because we already spent our gift giving money on our vacation, we will forced to reign in any temptations toward extravagance.
- We will share stories of our Ten Dollar Christmas Challenge. On Thanksgiving Day, a family member passed out ten dollar bills to each adult and each child over the age of three. The challenge is simply to use that ten dollars to bless someone. On Christmas Day, instead of opening gifts, we will take turns sharing what we did with our ten dollars. Some, of course, will add their own money to this blessing, but the idea is to give gifts at Christmas — gifts which are truly needed.
Hopefully, these ten dollar gifts will help us experience the true spirit of Christmas…we will even be creating some very precious memories in the process.
Now…what am I going to do with my ten dollars? Hmmm.
Readers: Has your family ever tried to cut back on your gift exchange? How has it gone? What do you think about our ten dollar Christmas challenge?