Would You Ever Skip Gifts for Christmas? This Family Did!

This family celebrates the holiday present-free -- and, yes, their kids are absolutely fine

I love the holidays…in theory at least, from the view in July. But early-December shopping sprees give way to the mid-December wrapping frenzy which leads to the late December realization that OMG you forgot someone and then ends with the post-Christmas reorganizing of the play room to find spots for all the new stuff they’ve played with for maybe 10 minutes tops. At some point every year, I find myself muttering a R-rated variation on “Merry Christmas” not fit to print here.

What if you rejected all the materialism and obligation of the holiday, freeing up enough time and money to actually enjoy every bit of the extra time together? One family did it -- and loved it (even their kids were totally down with it). They found the experience so rewarding they’re doing it for a third time this year.

When blogger Heather Greenwood Davis of Globetrotting Mama and her family first decided to go “present-free and presence-heavy” in 2011, it was because they were embarking on a year of traveling around the globe, making gifts an impossibility. “Christmas was the fact that we were going to be in this wonderful place, where Santa may not be able to find us,” she says of talking to her two young sons. “They were totally receptive to it.” 2012 was the real test, since they’d be back at home, where giving and getting from family and friends was the norm. “We’d just come back and felt overwhelmed with all the stuff we had back home,” she said. “The idea of this overindulgent day kind of turned our stomachs, especially in light of some things we’d seen around the world. The kids totally got it and helped us come up with what to do instead: bowling, baking cookies, laser tags and decorating the tree.”

But, um, how did they loop in St. Nick? “Santa wrote them letters commending them on all the things they’d done,” she said. “He also told them they’d given their gifts to kids that really need it.”

While the kids were surprisingly game, the adults in their lives had a harder time. They let family know the deal early on before anyone started shopping, and told party guests to only bring gifts like wine that could be enjoyed together that night, but some people still came bearing gifts. “For some reason our family’s decision to opt out of something was seen as an insult or affront to the way they were choosing to celebrate the season,” she writes on her blog. “This decision isn’t ‘anti-Christmas,’ it’s pro-us. We love the excitement around Christmas. We love the family get-togethers and the cookies and even decorating the house, so why not have more of that?...instead of having a mom who was burnt out at both ends running from store to store and trying to scratch things off a list, they had a mom who was open to an hours-long game of Monopoly and hot chocolate movie-fests.”

Could you ever go gift-free for the holidays?

Mom of two Sasha Emmons is a writer and editor. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.

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