My husband and I don't give each other presents: not birthday presents, not anniversary presents, not Christmas presents. <Gasp!>
The appropriate cultural response: How do you show the other how much you love them without buying them gifts?
Um, wow. Did you hear what you just said? (Ok, i typed it, but whatever.)
Why We Don't Buy Gifts
My husband and I don't buy each other stuff. We do stuff for each other and with each other. And we do it all year long.
It's a pattern we sort of naturally fell into over a decade of marriage. With limited time and money, we found we'd much rather spend both on building or doing something the other wanted than shopping.
The conscious decision not to buy presents adds even more meaning to the everyday gifts we give each other –– preparing meals, looking after household tasks, listening to the others hopes and dreams, or covering childcare so the other can pursue an interest -- and to the occasional gifts like building something around the house. For example, the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves that line nearly every free wall we've got are more than essential storage in a tiny urban row-house; the memories of afternoons we spent building them have been incorporated into the glue that holds our marriage together.
The Bah Humbug Decision
We've now made the decision that the "no holiday presents" policy should apply to our daughter as well. (We're not forbidding them Mom Mom, we're just not buying any.)
We actually decided that for her 3rd birthday. The discussion was pretty short:
Me - Something about thinking about getting Maya a birthday present, blah, blah, blah.
Mac - We get her stuff all the time; why do we have to buy her a present?
He was right. It's not like the child is hurting for stuff and she gets a new toy at least every couple of weeks, all second-hand from the same place most of our out-grown or un-wanted stuff goes.
Sharing "candy" at Maya's b-day party
photo © 2010
What we did do is throw a pretty big (for a 3 year old) birthday party, complete with her top requests -- chocolate cupcakes and candy -- and a dozen of her friends. We also threw in fairy tale costumes, crown-decorating, a sticker-hunt/animal-rescue mission, and a pinata. It was 3 year old heaven.
Latest Research Suggests We're Right on the Money
A study recently published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology comparing relative satisfaction with purchases and experiences concluded:
… satisfaction with material purchases tends to decrease over time, whereas satisfaction with experiential purchases tends to increase. (HT: @unclutterer)
Think back on your own holidays and birthdays. How many of your best memories are of the present? I have dozens of distinct memories of all the places my grandparents took me and my siblings as children, but would be hard pressed to name one thing they gave me.
“Experiences appreciate in value in your mind as often times you remember them fondly, where as goods and “stuff” depreciate as soon as you get them home.”
Building Our Family Holiday Traditions
Holiday "gingerbread" house assembly party from back when we were still carefree and childless.
photo © 2006
Knowing that permanent memory doesn't develop until a child turns about 4 years old, we've sort of taken a pass on building our own holiday traditions for the past couple of years. The biggest challenge we face is that we travel every Christmas and alternate years with the in-laws, so there will be little consistency of tradition from year to year.
Never the less, this year we are excitedly planning our own soon-to-be-traditions. Amanda Soule, of Soulemama and author of several related books has always inspired me with her solstice traditions. The beauty of building our own traditions around the solstice is that we are usually home for it.
And, though we don't want to buy a lot of stuff to clutter up our relatives' homes, we also don't want to arrive empty handed. We are looking forward to incorporating Maya into our handmade holiday creations.
This post is in response to the Green Moms Carnival holiday theme.
Leo Babuata has a great post making The Case Against Buying Christmas Presents