Gift-giving becomes a drag when we let expectations control the process.
- others expectations
- our perception of others expectations
- our expectations of how we want to be perceived
- our expectations of how we think things should be
- expectations based on traditions – how things have just always been done
If we’ve never stopped to examine these expectations and evaluate their validity, we will most likely eventually find ourselves in a less-than-satisfying situation at some point.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, we’re all about intentional choices – no living by default, and that certainly extends to the area of gift-giving.
Somewhere along the way, the focus shifted from giving, to the gifts.
We explore this line of thought a bit in the video below, along with several methods of gift-giving that we enjoy as a family.
We don’t want to get caught up in the “it’s the time of year to shower people with stuff” contest.
And yet, we also don’t want to take on the spirit of Grinch-ness.
In pondering the act of giving, I feel that there’s an art to it that is easy to lose in the shuffle.
When we give someone something just to give them something, to check it off our list, there’s no joy in it. It feels empty because it is empty.
I am challenging us to consider our gift list this year through this lens.
- be fun (done with a happy heart ” /> )
- be meaningful/useful to the recipient
- cost you something (in other words, include part of yourself, which almost always means time/sacrifice and thought)
If you’ve been going through the motions, maybe you want to rethink who is on your gift list. Maybe you want to rethink the way you approach gifting so that you can include several, if not all of these aspects.
Here are 5 family Christmas gift exchange ideas that our family enjoys.
1. White Elephant
Fun - 5 | Meaningful/Useful - 1 | Difficulty Level - 2
This is usually much higher on the fun scale than the meaningful one, but memories might be the most meaningful of all
I don’t think most White Elephants are supposed to work like this, but we’ve had a lot of fun over the years with my extended family using the gift exchange as a chance to get rid of something we don’t want anymore.
It became almost a contest to see who could bring the lamest gift. Well, my dad thought it was a contest anyway. One year he boxed up some weights (with no bar) and underwear that didn’t fit him anymore or something.
With White Elephant there’s a pile of gifts that everyone brought. You draw numbers (or use another order system, like age) and as each person goes they have the choice to test their luck with a new gift or steal any of the gifts that are already open. If someone’s gift is stolen they get to pick a new gift or steal another.
This has always been one of my favorite traditions for bigger holiday events.
2. Name Draw/Secret Santa
Fun - 4 | Meaningful/Useful - 3 | Difficulty Level - 3
Drawing names is such an easy way to simplify giving, but it’s a million times simpler when you use something more sophisticated than a baseball cap. Check out some of these options and see if they don’t make you want to draw names this year just so you can try them out!
Elfster – what a great name! Beautiful site, lots of great features.
DrawNames – this was recommended by a friend, and it looks good too.
3. Stocking Stuffers
Fun - 3 | Meaningful/Useful - 3 | Difficulty Level - 3
There’s really no reason you couldn’t just stick to stocking-type gifts if you wanted to – like everyone bring one small stocking stuffer for each person.
My parents do this for us kids every year since we’ve been adults, and it’s become a tradition that we really enjoy. They give us practical little items that we’ll use, not trinkets that clutter up our homes.
It’s fun to go out and find gifts like this, and you could even make it a fun group activity with a dollar limit.
Fun - 3 | Meaningful/Useful - 5 | Difficulty Level - 1
This is probably my second favorite way to get “want” gifts.
I say second favorite because I feel guilty making people pick something from my list, and also because I feel like it forces them to spend a certain amount. That can be circumvented by everyone deciding on a dollar amount together before creating their wishlists.
This is definitely a more favorable option for me in situations where everyone gets everyone a gift…
I’m a big fan of the Amazon Universal Wishlist because you can get almost anything on Amazon, but you can still add stuff from anywhere online to your Amazon list. Plus, the free shipping is something we use all the time.
Fun - 1 | Meaningful/Useful - 5 | Difficulty Level - 1
This is hands down our favorite kind of gift, as long as it’s open-ended and not to an obscure place. We LOVE being able to pick out our own stuff and see how far we can make the money go – which can be farther after the holiday season!
Sure, it feels less personal (stay tuned for a post about cool/meaningful ways to give cash/cards, though!), but for us it’s actually the most personal because we’re picky, ha!
This one is really high on the useful scale!
BONUS: There’s one other gift policy that I really rather like, and we may end up adopting with our children: “Something to wear, something to read, something you want, something you need.”
I love the idea of a little rhyme simplifying the giving process!