Every year, with weddings and new babies, our family seems to grow by at least one. Now, with in-laws, nieces and nephews, my Christmas list has swelled to 18 “immediate” family members. Since we live hundreds of miles away from one another, not only does exchanging gifts mean shopping and wrapping, but also mailing all the parcels. Kinda makes gift-giving seem as much fun as going to the dentist!
Happily, last year, our families sat down and came up with some creative solutions.
1. First, we decided to give “family” gifts, rather than buying for each individual. This makes the gift exchange more equitable for singles and for couples without children, who find themselves buying many more presents than they get in return. Plus, we’ve found this eliminates the shopper’s panic of trying to buy something for the men in our family (candles and scented bath products don’t have that same sure-to-please quality for the bearded among us).
2. Second, we agreed to focus on “experiential” gifts. When my sisters and I reminisce about our childhood, it’s the things we did — our experiences — not the things we had, that we remember and treasure most. So, our Christmas wish lists today are filled with things we’d like to do: tickets to a sporting or arts event, dinner gift certificates, passes for the pool, zoo or amusement park, etc. The bonus with these items is that you just tuck them in a card and put a stamp on the envelope; no wrapping and no standing in line at the post office.
Other gift ideas centered on experiences include scrapbook supplies for photo albums (which capture our experiences) and good old-fashioned board games that the family can play together. There’s no gift more valuable than a happy memory!
Coming up with this new gift-giving protocol has brought relief to all of us, multiplying the joy of giving, and well, receiving!