My Anti-Holiday Gift Manifesto

my anti-holiday gift manifesto

The older I get, the less I like gifts: holiday gifts, birthday gifts, “just because” gifts, that thing where your neighbors leave an anonymous basket of items from the dollar bin at Target with a poem about how you need to do it to for two more neighbors because Halloween or Christmas or whatever.

Reader, it was not always this way.

my anti-holiday gift manifestoIn the time pre-kids when I had a full-time 9 to 5 job, I loved to find the perfect holiday gift at a small out-of-the-way boutique. I enjoyed shopping for impractical tokens that would show people I was thinking about them.

Now, I look at my kitchen table, a functional surface I use to cook and off of which my family eats. During Halloween, it was covered with plastic spider rings and Halloween-colored slime that my kids kept fighting over. My front door proclaimed to all and sundry that we were “Boo’ed!” It’s not a phrase that I, as a mature adult, really enjoy saying, by the way. “I’ve been boo’ed!” 

Alright, let me step back before you think I’m a total ingrate and killjoy.

Don’t get me wrong – I love that someone took the time to pick out kid-friendly gifts. I love that we live in a cohesive neighborhood with thoughtful people.

Personally, I just don’t like feeling pressured to run out and get gifts for my neighbors. Booing ultimately becomes is neighbors passing the same $20 or $30 from house to house, up and down the street. Can I just tape an envelope with Andrew Jackson or a couple of Hamiltons inside and draw a little ghost on it?

Bill Murray saying no thank you

For real curmudgeon points, I’d like to share with you my ultimate gift-giving dirty secret: I don’t really give wedding gifts anymore. At least not off of the registry. Look, at my age, most of the people getting married are established adults who have been maintaining separate households for a decade or more. These aren’t starry-eyed young people just beginning adult life together, making a go of it in a one-room apartment. In most cases, they make more money than us. Like, a lot more. 

This can’t just be me. Compulsory gift-giving is a real drag, isn’t it? I certainly find it to be so, not least because compulsory gift-giving comes with outlandish material expectations on the part of the small human beings I’m trying to raise to be detached from worldly possessions.

If you’re wondering how that’s going, my kid had already drafted Christmas lists – in mid-October. 

Additionally, since we move every two to three years, I’ve become a real minimalist. I don’t really want much in the way of excess stuff. I don’t want to be conditioned to expect gifts at certain dates on the calendar any more than I want to be told it’s time to buy gifts for people. In a way, societal expectations surrounding gift-giving robs the act of the spontaneity and heartfelt quality of giving someone something truly special.

As a result, I’ve become the queen of the consumable gift: Edible Arrangements, Harry & David gift baskets, etc. Something you can enjoy and doesn’t sit collecting dust on a shelf because family members feel guilty giving or throwing it away.

Look, if you love giving gifts at societally-appointed times, honestly, I’m jealous. I wish that kind of earnest generosity came naturally to me.

Maybe it’s just the season of life I’m in, in which I’m expected to take treats to the class on birthdays, Boo my neighbors, give teacher gifts, and still give gifts to my friends and family. Or maybe I’m just a Scrooge. But I don’t think I am. I remain a fan of the handwritten note, the Google Hangout with college buddies, the unexpected coffee Venmo or “how are you guys?” out-of-the-blue text from a friend.

The older I get, the less I care about gifts and the more I prize organic, genuine connection.


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