This is year four of our Mariah Carey Christmas.
You know the song:
I don’t want a lot for Christmas
There is just one thing I need
I don’t care about the presents
Underneath the Christmas tree.
I just want you for my own
More than you could ever know
Make my wish come true
All I want for Christmas
Here’s the video in case you don’t
We’ve been singing that “no presents, just presence” tune since 2011.
And there are still no regrets.
It’s still a learning curve though. And we’re still finding ourselves managing other people’s expectations.
People who insist on gifting and then face that awkward push back at the door.
People who assume the kids have been brainwashed and so try to poke what they think is some hidden anger on their part. (I recently had to pull my oldest off his soapbox when someone assumed he had a list of gifts he wanted ready to go to Santa. He doesn’t.)
And this year, we’ve faced new questions: We don’t have an Elf on our shelf and no one here is sad about it.
But what I stress to my kids, and to people who ask us, is that what we’ve chosen to do over the holidays, and why we’ve chosen to do it is in no way a reflection of how we feel about the way you choose to do it.
We’ve made the choice that works for us. We hope you’re doing the same.
We aren’t offended by mountains of toys. You can feel free to exchange gifts in front of us. And we aren’t trying to convert you.
In fact, I’m always happy to share a list of the things I think people who travel might appreciate.
This is not the holiday equivalent of eating chocolate in front of the dieting friend.
We don’t feel deprived.
We’re spending time away at some point over the winter break and are already looking ahead to trips in the new year.
None of those things will be wrapped with pretty bows but they will bring us plenty of joy.
And so here we are.
Four years without gifts under the tree – for us or from us.
Four years without a list of things we want but a long list of things we want to do together.
Four years without the dread of the January bills or the stress of wondering if we bought the right thing.
Four years where all we got for Christmas was each other and the joy of eating and laughing with family and friends.
And four years of being so perfectly okay with it, that we continue to sing along with Mariah and mean it.
We are wishing you and yours all the best for the holidays. Whether it’s Chanukah or Kwanzaa or Christmas or Festivus. We wish you peace and love and all the things your heart desires – whether it comes wrapped or not.
Happy Holidays from our Globetrotting Family to yours,
Heather, Ish, Ethan and Cameron
I’m curious what this looks like for you in a literal sense: do you plan things to do together over break, or ‘exchange’ experiences you’ve planned? I ask because our favorite Christmas seasons are the ones we spend together on a trip (and go very light on gifts because of it). I certainly understand the appeal of the simplicity of it, and lack of stress. Glad you posted this!
It’s similar to the way we planned our year away. We have giant Post It note easel and at the beginning of December we encourage the boys to write down the things they want to do together. That’s up throughout the month. Ahead of the break (we did it last week) we sit down with the calendar and pencil in the days when the items from the list will happen. Travel items for us often relate somewhat to my work so I’ll present opportunities and get yays/nays from the family. There’s no exchange. And there are gift exceptions: We’ll take a bottle or wine or a baked good if you come in and drink/eat with us and we’ll bring those items out to you if invited over. And we make donations to charity as well. I think the reason the exceptions work is because they don’t put any obligation on the receiver to reciprocate. They are true gifts. Also, I’m a big fan of the gift for no reason in the middle of the year. ;)
The more I think about this idea, the more I realize I’m probably the one in my family who’d have the most objections. In the past four years you’ve been doing this, did your kids get their stockings filled by Santa or was it completely cold turkey?
Hey Jody. It’s not for everyone. Nope, Santa hasn’t filled stockings here but he has left them notes and thanked them for good deeds and generosity (charities etc.). At their grandparents house they still receive a stocking. They tear into it on arrival…and then completely forget about it. Often, we’ve got the call after returning home that they literally left the stockings behind. I wasn’t surprised. Over the years I found that they really weren’t that into it beyond the initial opening. The gifts themselves weren’t what kept them happy.
Those kids don’t look too deprived or traumatized to me! We have taken a page out of your book and are now reducing our gift giving. We want less stress both for ourselves and also for those who are shopping for us. I still love giving and receiving gifts but I love low stress even more.
Let me know how it goes Vanessa. It can still be stressful. People have learned to expect things and quantities/certain values of things and when you change that the initial reaction may surprise you. But I can tell you that the low stress levels that come with it make it so worthwhile. Give a “just because I was thinking of you” gift to a few friends at the end of January and bet they’ll appreciate it even more.