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The Problem With the Giving Season

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I have a confession to make. I kind of loathe the Christmas season. Not because I hate family time, or because I am truly a Grinch at heart, but because I can’t stand the obligatory gift giving of it all.

Now, I know what you all are thinking, “What does she mean by ‘obligatory gift giving'? I give because I want to!” But let’s be honest: There are at least a few people on your list, year after year, whom you have no idea how to shop for, and kind of wish you didn’t have to.

Obligatory gift giving.

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I have never been a fan of it. I am totally the girl who will pick something up on a whim in July. Like if I see a sweater I know a friend would love, or a book I am convinced a family member has to read. I love that—giving because the desire to give simply occurs to you, for no other reason than because someone you care about popped into your mind. But this whole “season of giving” thing? It stresses me out. A nation full of people spending money they don’t have, on presents most of those on their list don’t need and will never use. Placing the focus on possessions above all else. Trying to infuse some meaning into it all, when in reality there is rarely much thought that goes into any of it.

Part of my disdain for the whole thing probably has to do with the fact that I have never been one who feels or expresses love through gifts. You know what I’m talking about, right? The love languages? Gift giving has always ranked low for me. If you want to show me you love me, you will sit and have a long conversation with me. You will make a meal and hold my hand and chat away for hours over a bottle of wine. That is really all it takes. A little quality time and I am set; feeling more loved than any piece of jewelry or trinket could ever make me feel. I’ve just never been big on “things,” always instead valuing time and affection.

The obligatory gift giving sucks all the fun out of the holiday season for me.

Still, I can be a damn good gift giver when I want to be. Not to pat myself on the back or anything, but I have been known to give a few absolutely amazing gifts in my day. Truly thoughtful gifts. The kind of gifts that I know for a fact are still cherished by their recipients. And when I have a gift that I just know a friend or family member will be over the moon about, I honestly can’t even wait to give it. I get giddy like a child, hardly able to contain my excitement.

But how often do gifts actually deserve that level of enthusiasm? When was the last time you gave (or received) a present that involved that much thought and anticipation? It seems so much more common for people to instead haphazardly shop, grabbing whatever they think *might* suit the loved ones on their list, aiming simply to fill a quota rather than purchase a truly life-altering gift.

The reality is that life-altering gifts are few and far between. So instead we end up purchasing a bunch of nonessentials for each other, things most of us wouldn’t ever have thought about purchasing for ourselves. Often, these things sit on a back cabinet for years, going untouched and unused until they are tossed into a bin for charity at some distant point in the future.

And I hate it. The obligatory gift giving sucks all the fun out of the holiday season for me. Because it isn’t about “the thought that counts.” It is about showing your love for someone through packaging and material possessions, taking home a handful of items you really don’t want or need in the process.

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I hope to raise my daughter to have a different view of the Christmas season. I want her to see it as an opportunity to spend time with family, and a chance to be with the people she loves. I would like to keep the gift giving to a minimum, kept mostly in the background of our festivities rather than the focal point. The problem becomes convincing everyone around us to do the same, which is difficult when gift giving has become such an ingrained part of the holiday season. But if I could have one Christmas wish, that would be it: an end to obligatory gift giving, replaced instead by a focus on quality time and kindness to all.

Let the Grinch keep all those presents he stole from under the trees in Whoville. I just want the love and merriment that remained.

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