Monday, November 17, 2008

Obligatory Giving

I love giving gifts. I love getting gifts. I hate feeling like I have to give gifts. I hate even more the feeling of not giving a gift when I feel like I should have. It's that last sentiment that I wish I could shake today.

This past weekend our family shared a day making Norwegian lefse (delicious potato crepe with wrapped up with butter and sugar). It is a wonderful tradition that we share with my husband's family and their best friends. It is the kind of tradition that I am so grateful that I married into-shared work followed by a wonderful meal, an ethnic tradition passed down through the generations and a day so special that we all skip whatever we have going on to make it happen. This is the kind of day that the "hundred dollar holiday" is made of. 

It is perfect except that it has become transformed into another gift-giving holiday. It might have started because one of the kids has a birthday that same weekend. Or maybe it was the year that one woman bought us all "lefse making t-shirts". That was fun, but it should have stopped there. This year we drove home with three mini-basketballs, a clip on flash light, a holiday coloring book, holiday room spray, a holiday lotion 3-pack, a holiday double shot glass, a holiday jar opening/trivet, and a parafin wax foot spa. 

I brought nothing to give. I did this on purpose because I was tired of feeling like I should when there was no justifiable reason why I should.  I did this because all these little $20 mini-gifts and hostess gifts etc. add to our massive credit card debt every December and I am trying to put an end to the overspending. I did this because anything I would have bought would have been just because, not because they had any meaning. 

Now I feel like crap. I feel bad because I came empty handed and came home with a trunk-full, I feel bad because I like these people and it is fun to give... yet I didn't. I also feel bad because I now own a bunch of stuff that I didn't really need and how need to find a place for. I feel bad for feeling ungrateful. 

I am sure we all have "obligatory" gift giving scenarios we face each year. How do we handle these in a proactive way? How can we show our appreciation for others, give a gift of meaning etc without falling into the trap of more spending, more waste? Looking forward to everyone's insight.


Earthbound Spirit said...

What I do is: Re-gift the gifts I get that I can't use/don't need. The lotion pack (if unopened) could be a teacher gift. Or a solstice gift. The shot glass could be a white elephant or Secret Santa in the office gift. You might want to keep the foot spa for yourself ;-)

Queen B said...

I had the same problem a couple years ago when we recently became good friends with another family with kids the same age as ours. They brought Christmas gifts over for the adults and the kids, and I had nothing! So, of course, I ran out to get something for them. It wasn't meaningful, it was guilt ridden. The the following year I was ready with gifts for all, and they had very little. Ugh. I'm hoping this year we just don't do gifts - because I'm not planning on buying anything. I think I'll just bring it up beforehand, and say let's not do gifts, but get together for dinner, etc. sometimes just nipping it in the bud works, but apparently not with Grandparents...

The other problem is gifts for random holidays such as Halloween. Since when do people give gifts for Halloween??? We get a bunch of junkie toys in a trick or treat bag from Grandma (usually both of them). The bag and all the toys promptly go to St. Vinnies once the kids go to school the next day. How does one explain to the grandparents that really, just having us over for dinner and the kids arriving at the door in costumes to trick or treat is enough?!?!?!

Valentines Day Easter has also become a junk-giving holiday. Help!