Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Unplug the Christmas Machine, part 3a

Note: My editor (aka Eric) does not usually read my posts in advance, but I've had him read through each of the posts in this series to offer feedback before they're published on-line. It's been funny how I've been reminded of my college writing days this week, in the sense that I've been doing a lot of reading and preparing to put these together. All of that to say, my initial post for today was quite lengthy and dense, and Eric encouraged me to split it in two. I saw the wisdom in that suggestion and thus, what follows is part 1 of a series within a series =)--part 2 will be up on Friday.

Today we're talking about gift giving, which is clearly a hot topic when it comes to Christmas! Nathan is still quite young, but we really desire to cultivate an attitude of generous giving and gracious receiving, not just at Christmas but throughout the year.

I was struck by a story from the book in which a 9-year-old boy gave his mom a list for Santa that was over 60 items long, and the mom was deeply troubled and unsure of how to proceed. According to the authors of Unplug the Christmas Machine, "Many parents find it a challenge to create a simple, value-centered Christmas in the midst of all the commercial pressure. But the task is made much easier when parents keep in mind the four things children really want for Christmas: relaxed and loving time with the family, realistic expectations about gifts, an evenly paced holiday season and reliable family traditions."

The writers suggest being specific about what kids can expect in terms of presents, as in one large gift, one small gift, and a stocking. Or, you could follow my mom's wonderful example (which I wrote about here in a fun post of some of our own family traditions). I also like the idea of parents giving 3 gifts to their children, just like the wise men brought to Jesus. In fact, somewhere recently I read of a parent categorizing the gifts like the gold (big ticket item), frankincense (something educational) and myrrh (something practical). (This is how I best remember it and I would gladly give credit if someone can reference the source!)

In talking about gifts, I think it's important (and somewhat humorous!) to acknowledge some of our ingrained beliefs and perceptions about giving. Check out this list from the book:

"The Ten Hidden Gift-Giving Rules"

1. Give a gift to everyone you expect to get one from.
2. If someone gives you a gift unexpectedly, reciprocate that year. (Or have prewrapped generic gifts set aside for just such an occasion.)
3. When you add a name to your gift list, give that person a gift every year thereafter.
4. The amount of money you spend on a gift determines how much you care about the recipient.
5. Gifts exchanged between adults should be roughly equal in value.
6. The presents you give someone should be fairly consistent in value over the years.
7. If you give a gift to a person in one category (for example, a co-worker or neighbor), give a gift to everyone in that category. and these gifts should be similar in value.
8. Women should give gifts to their close woman friends.
9. Men should not give gifts to their male friends, unless these are alcoholic beverages.
10. Whenever the above rules cause you any difficulty, remedy the situation by buying more gifts.

Which of these "rules" do you identify most with?

On Friday we'll talk about ways to challenge these rules, so get your thinking caps on!


thehomespunheart said...

Carrie -

I have been hearing so much lately about the three gift thing and wondered if there was a simple way of categorizing those three so to speak. I love the idea you remembered about that!

Number 3 may be the hardest thing for me and it doesn't relate only to gifts but also to Christmas cards. How on earth do I take someone off the list?! :)

Thanks, Editor Eric, for encouraging the split in two! :) There is a lot here still!!

Jenny said...

Wow the list is ridiculous. I can't relate with it. Because I would not fallow it. I give not expecting anything in return. I fallow this " But the task is made much easier when parents keep in mind the four things children really want for Christmas: relaxed and loving time with the family, realistic expectations about gifts, an evenly paced holiday season and reliable family traditions." We try to give things we can do together as a family. This year I already purchase games for everyone. Knowing that we will spend a great deal of the day playing them. With many fun day's of head.

I love that you have me pausing to really think about Christmas.

Christy@MercyEveryMorning said...

I'm enjoying this series! Thanks for posting! :)

Kendra said...

There are several items on this list that strike me. I think #1 is the hardest for me though. I'm thankful our families have decided on our system of drawing names, so this doesn't apply to family. I often think through anyone who would give a gift and try to be ready with something in return.

I did find that giving homemade items (food) helped me feel better about my giving. I could give more people a gift than I expected to receive from. I found so much more joy in doing that than giving "bigger" gifts out of obligation.

On a side note - my co-workers used to give each other gifts. A couple of years ago we decided that as a department we would choose a worthy cause and donate money we would have spent on gifts for each other. This year we are collecting canned goods to give to a local food bank.

Thanks for doing this series. I'm really enjoying it!

debra said...

I am conflicted with the list. While I do some of the things, deep down I don't think it's right just to give because you think you will get something in return.

I hope Monica sees this because I have taken people off my card list as of late. This is how I decided: The list was just getting too long so I decided that we would not send cards to anyone who has not sent us one for 2 years in a row. I give them leeway if they had a death in the family or divorce. In that case a cheery card may be just what they need. It sounds harsh but if you think about it people who don't send cards probably aren't 'card' people so I don't think it would bother them. My husband thinks it's harsh but he doesn't do the cards. :)


Ewokgirl said...

It took me a long time to get over #4 and #5. We have a social group with whom we always exchange gifts (birthday AND Christmas, and frankly, I'd love to stop this, as it's a lot of gifts to come up with throughout the year). We're the only one-income couple of the group, so we never have as much to spend on gifts. I used to feel bad about giving away homemade bread, but receiving a $25 gift card to a restaurant or something. Now, I just remind myself that giving what we can, as long as it's something the recipients like, is fine.

And frankly, I'm of the belief that it's far better to give nothing at all than to give an afterthought gift out of obligation. But again, it took me a few years to get there.

Angela - Life w/ Two Busy Boys said...

I've really been thinking about many of the things on your list this year since the economy is tough. I think society has taken a lot of joy out of gift spending and what it represents. If I don't spend enough then I don't love them enough. THis year we are giving several of Joshua's old toys to Caleb - we didn't spend a thing. But they are new to him and we know he will enjoy them.

mer@lifeat7000feet said...

I don't really relate to that list...I think I've come a long way in the last several years

Mary said...

My first instinct was that the list seemed so contrary to the spirit of giving a gift. It's just something that we do out of love, and I don't really put that much thought into it. We do have a budget for family, so I guess in that regard, I do #5 and #6, but we don't really sweat it if we go way over on something for someone or, on the other extreme, if we run across something with little fiscal value that seems just right.

And to be honest, we do follow #2, but we do that year round, with little trinkets or homemade items to reciprocate when you're caught off guard.

But my choices aren't always the most socially acceptable ones...and I'm usually oblivious to that maybe my not following these rules isn't necessarily a good thing! I look forward to hearing how others see them and would challenge them.

Abbey said...

We're pretty casual about gifts and usually buy fun things we see during trips we take. I never feel obligated, but just get things that make me think of people. Other than that, I admit that we make about 30 dozen cookies to put together on plates as gifts for our friends and anyone we get unexpected invites from, but I enjoy that too.

I love the idea of the 3 gifts for kids and the idea you shared from your family as well. Great ideas! I'm excited to see where you go with this, Carrie!

elizabeth said...

Loving this series Carrie!

I used to be really bound by lists such as this and it's taken many years to break free. This year all the family is looking at the gift lists a little more closely due to the economy. In fact I just talked to my son tonight about that. I told him that dad and I are definitely getting gifts for the kids and the granddaughter, but they are smaller this year. He said they are thinking about framing a cute fingerpainted picture by the baby for us and I am thrilled! What a heartfelt gift!

I think that if a gift is from the heart that is all that matters. It doesn't matter a bit to me what somebody spent or where they got it.

And a part of me is happy that so many people are looking at the Christmas over-commercialization this year. It had gotten so out of hand in our country. :(

Linds said...

Hey Carrie-

Great post. I enjoyed the list and definitely things on there I hadn't thought about before.

I think number 2 I could definitely identify with and have had generic wrap gifts for such occasions.

I'll be intersted to see part 2 of this post!

Carrie said...

Carrie, this is a really awesome post! It's so practical AND helpful.

Our son is also 2 and we've been considering ways to make the holidays meaningful and joyful, without becoming overwhelming.

I LOVE the idea about giving kids three gifts corresponding to the wisemen's gifts to Jesus. What a FANTASTIC idea.

Lots to think about. Thanks for sharing! I look forward to the next posting.

Carmen said...

Number 5 often gets me. I'm embarrassed to say that in certain situations I sort of keep track if what I'm giving and what I get are of equal value. Specifically with my married sibling...I get he, his wife, and his son all gifts but am pretty sure in the 1 gift they give me they are spending a third of what I spend. This year I'm trying very hard not too keep track.
Thanks Carrie!