Changing Your Thinking About Buying Gifts

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Today my 9 year old and I saw some city workers installing Christmas trees on light poles in our city. Known as “The Christmas City,” we have a considerable amount of tourism here around the holidays, so it isn’t really early for the city to be getting ready. To their credit, they haven’t tried to extend the season too much, although it would probably benefit them to do so.

Anyway, the sight of the Christmas tree got my daughter reflecting on the tradition of giving gifts. “You know where giving gifts started, Mom,” she said from the backseat as we drove. “The wise men gave gifts to Jesus.”

I pointed out that the gifts Jesus got weren’t toys, and that he didn’t get a whole bunch of them. “Some people have taken that tradition way overboard,” I commented. “Including our family, sometimes.”

She thought about that for a minute, then suggested that I could buy her an alarm clock for Christmas. We had just been talking about getting her one so she could start get herself up in the mornings instead of me waking her up. She’s growing up so fast. Even though her list so far is full of all kinds of toys, she is open to adjusting her expectations and doesn’t expect to get everything on her list. She likes the gifting aspect of Christmas, no doubt about it, but she knows it isn’t what Christmas is really all about.

“Soon it will be Christmas,” she said excitedly during our conversation. “The time when Jesus was born as a baby.”

October and early November is a good time to reevaluate your gift giving habits and attitudes. How much importance do you put on giving or getting the perfect gifts? Do you think your attitudes and habits are reflective of what you believe Christmas is all about? If not, what changes could you make, and how can you prepare your loved ones for these changes?

I’m not going to push my opinions as being the only right ones, because each one of us has to decide for ourselves how important gifts should be, and how we want to handle this aspect of our celebration. The important thing is to be intentional and not just fall prey to the constant advertising messages we will be exposed to this time of year.

I really haven’t thought about or focused on Christmas much this October. 2 days ago was exactly 2 months until Christmas, and a few years ago I would not have been comfortable having NO gifts bought or even really planned at this point other than some stocking stuffers. Sometimes I still have moments where I wonder if I am waiting too long to get started on preparations, but then I remember all the changes I have made and I know that this is the result–a more appropriate level of focus on this holiday instead of it taking over everything for the entire season.

In the comments below, share your thoughts on gift-giving and any efforts you have made to put Christmas into a more appropriate place in your life.

Stopping Christmas Stress in Its Tracks

Well, as promised, it has been a l-o-o-o-ng time since you have heard from me. I don’t know if you were thinking about Christmas in January as you tried to keep New Year’s Resolutions or in April as the flowers started to bloom or in September as the new school year started. I can honestly tell you that I haven’t bought any gifts yet except for a few stocking stuffers, and I’ve been ignoring my few Facebook friends who like to occasionally taunt me with memes like this:

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Wow, do we really not have anything better to do than think about Christmas almost 4 months ahead of time? Besides the fact that half of those memes are not accurate about how many more days or weeks there are. They get posted, then shared for a few weeks, and people don’t bother to check their calendars. If Facebook says it’s 15 weeks until Christmas, then it must be true, right?

To tell you the truth, a few years ago, I would have been panicking about the fact that it is now only about 9 weeks until Christmas. In previous years, I have been mostly finished shopping by Halloween. Some years I was writing out my card list and getting ready to start wrapping gifts at this point. But when I really thought about it, I realized that Christmas is one day! And no one day, no matter how special, is worth 3 or 4 months of preparation. I had to simplify.

I still think October is too early to get overly concerned about Christmas. It’s on my radar, but barely. Women’s ministry at church had to set a date for the cookie swap and luncheon. I took a peek at when the last day of school was and what Christmas vacation looked like. There are some things that it makes sense to do in October. My next post will go into some detail about what those are and why it makes sense to wait to do some other things.

I know most of the retail world is not on board with my simplified Christmas, but that is nothing new. I decided a long time ago that stores were not going to dictate my shopping habits to me. Last week, I walked into Bon Ton and saw this:

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Does the sight of Christmas decorations in October make you break out in a cold sweat? Does it make you feel behind in your planning and shopping? Take a breath. You are the one who decides when it’s time to start thinking about Christmas. It’s a process. It takes time to change habits and ingrained patterns of thinking.

If Christmas gives you joy and you enjoy decorating, shopping, planning and thinking about it for months every year, I’m not here to tell you there’s anything wrong with that. You don’t need this site, though. There are lots of sites out there for you!  If Christmas mostly stresses you out and you dread it, though, I encourage you to set firm limits on how much of your time and energy it consumes. You are the people this site aims to encourage, to support, and to help find a better way.

It’s not going to harm anyone if you send a Christmas email instead of cards this year. It may actually benefit your family if you sit them down and explain that you need to stay sane this holiday season, so you won’t be doing some of the things you’ve done in the past. More about that later. The point is, sometimes we feel trapped by the things we think are necessary to the Christmas experience of those we care about. If we don’t bake the cookies, our family will suffer. If we don’t send out fancy cards, our friends will think we won’t care.

In fact, if you courageously draw a line and refuse to do the things that stress you out, you will be pleasantly surprised at how little the people around you actually care. And if they do react initially, you will be surprised at how quickly they adjust to the new normal. In many cases, we overestimate the importance of having to do everything the same way every year. It’s okay to change things up and say no to being over-busy and stressed.

So right here, right now, banish Christmas stress this year. Just don’t allow it to come into your life. When it knocks at your door or tries to climb in the window or sneaks in through the back door and tries to sit right on your chest, you just come visit this site again, maybe take a read of my ebook “Taming the Christmas Monster,” and tell yourself that Christmas is about faith first, family second, and showing love to others third. There is simply no room for stress!