Note: This actually happened with my entire family, but since things get complicated when you put that many crazy people in one room, my friends Owen, Zelda, Rose, Nora and Joe will stand in for ALL members of my family.
The way we used to do Christmas gifts was simple. All the grown-ups in the family gave all the other grown-ups a thoughtful gift.
We didn't always get what we wanted, but it was the thought that counted, and we knew that.
Usually, we all spent about the same amount per gift; around $20. Sometimes we gave $20 gift cards. Or even cash. It got kind of silly.
If you did the math, it would look something like this:
We had 9 adults in the extended family.
Each of those 9 adults gave a $20 gift to each of the 8 other adults.
9x8 = 72 x $20 = $1440.
So every December 25th, approximately $1440 worth of cash and merchandise exchanged hands in our living room. About 48 hours after the exchange, it was all pretty much forgotten. But we did it anyway, and everything was great.
Actually, great might be an overstatement.
Truth is, none of us really needed more stuff. Our new stuff got crammed in with our old stuff, and we probably didn't even know where half our stuff was....
And.... there were some things –unsettling things– about our new stuff. We didn't like to think about it, but...
If the gifts had been things we desperately needed, the factory emissions, abysmal working conditions, nasty bunker fuel and occasional container ship crashes would have been okay.
But we didn't.
So it wasn't.
We decided that when next Christmas rolled around, we would try something different. The adults (that’s the kids over 21) wouldn’t exchange gifts with one another. Instead, we would pass around the hat.
All the money that would have been used to buy gifts would be given to a worthy cause. Each year, a different family would choose the charity.
That first year, we collected $955 in our shoe box with the opening cut in the top.
After we gave the donation, we felt good. And we received a cool thank you note.
It might not be for everybody, but the new system works for us. We don't stress about what to buy, we have more time, less stuff, and fewer yard sales.
Nobody even misses the gifts.
And unlike the old way, we always remember what we gave the year before.
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