How Do You Feel About Presents?

This is a post I’ve been writing piecemeal for a while, and I finally decided it would be a good Feel Good Friday post.  Because presents are supposed to make us feel good, right?  Both giving them and receiving them.  But too often they DON’T make us feel good.  We feel stressed about choosing them and paying for them, stressed about the circumstances under which we give them or receive them, stressed about making sure we (and our children) express our gratitude promptly and sincerely when receiving a gift, guilty when someone is too lavish with their gifts or when someone gets left out, and on and on.

Do you give handmade gifts?  Gifts of donations to charitable organizations?  Do you give tickets to events or lessons?  Have you ever given a gift of your time or talents?  Parents, do you balance gifts for multiple children by number?  By dollar amount?

Michael and I have been married for over twenty-four years now, and the boys are nineteen and twelve.  If there’s a wrong way to do it, we’ve done it.  So how would I do it if I could start over?  I’m so glad you asked!

1.) Handmade whenever possible.  Before I had children I used to make one cross-stitch Christmas gift a year.  I have a sister-in-law who crochets the most beautiful afghans, and one year we got one for Christmas.  I adore it and still use it all the time.  I probably got it ten years ago.  One year my aunt essentially fed us all winter with canned and frozen delicacies.

2.) Use your talents.  Do you have a photographer, seamstress, artist, or anyone with any talent at all  in the family?  Put them to work!  Have someone with a lovely speaking voice and a dramatic flair record favorite stories for their younger cousins.  Order an enlargement on canvas of a favorite photo.

3.) Give your time.  Do you have a green thumb?  Offer your services for a weekend in the Spring to plan, plant, and weed.  Offer to babysit so parents can have a night out, or even (gasp!) a weekend away.  If you know people are remodeling on a budget, offer to come help paint.

4.) Give someone else’s time.  Give a Zoo membership as a family present.  Give tickets to a show or concert.  Give a child gymnastic lessons, karate lessons, or dance lessons.  I’ll always remember seeing one of my nieces open a present from her parents (I think it was a birthday present) and there was a wine-colored leotard.  She opened it and got a HUGE smile on her face, and her mom asked softly, “Do you know what that’s for?”  It was because she had advanced to the next level in her dance classes (each level evidently had its own color), and those classes had been scheduled. PERFECT!

5.) Rein it in!  One of the best ideas I’ve ever heard is giving each child three gifts, symbolic of the Three Magi.  If you are a grandparent, you get to give two gifts.  This effectively reins in parents’ and grandparents’ shopping and children’s greed.  Great post, click on it.

6.) Give and receive with joy.  Find the gift that feels just right for someone you care about and give it.  Don’t stress about whether or not they will understand the sentiment behind it, the hard work that went into it, or the hours you worked to pay for it.  Just give it with a glad heart.  And be thankful for everyone who sends you a card, tells you “Merry Christmas” or gives you a gift of any kind.  They have made an effort on your behalf, and you should appreciate that.

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13 thoughts on “How Do You Feel About Presents?”

  1. What a perfect post for the season. I so agree. I’m just not into stress at Christmas or any other time of the year. Homemade or simple is the only way to go. I love receiving or giving anything someone has taken the time to make. One of my very favorite presents ever, are the little silver measuring spoons you gave me a few years ago. I use them everyday and always smile when I see them. How many people do you know that have measuring spoons shaped like palm trees?

  2. What a beautiful FGF with such great ideas! I don’t have children, but I buy for my parents, some extended family, and a few close friends. For the family, I do try to even things out by approximate number. I never count everything because there are gifts large and small at different prices, but I just kind of eyeball to make sure I’ve gotten the family about an even amount of stuff to open Christmas morning. I do this the most with my parents. My mother is easy to shop for because I shop with her all the time and I know what she likes or what she might like. My dad is not the typical dad. He’s not preppy, he doesn’t golf, he doesn’t drink coffee, he doesn’t work in an office…so what to get him? He actually rides a motorcycle and likes working outside on improving the house and yard and stuff, but all of that involved super expensive gifts that are unaffordable for me to buy. It is so hard to buy for him when I walk in Target or some place and they have all the “man-gifts” and they just don’t fit his personality. I end up buying my mom all this stuff and try to even out on my dad’s end…it’s kind of like, if you’re cutting hair and you’re bad at it, so you take a little more off one side to even it out, but it’s too much, so you take some from the other side, and so on, until you are bald (or run out of money in the gift case!). LOL! But I really do enjoy shopping for others and it doesn’t stress me out too much. I really love this time of year. 🙂

  3. A perfect post before my accident almost all my gifts were handmade, I gave my time as well and have taught my children that can be the best gift. We have definitely reined it in this year, but I believe my grandson is getting 3 gifts. Last year I was so depressed over a number of things I skipped Christmas entirely but one of them was the lack of finances. This year we planned a little better and while this will not be the lavish Christmas of the old days, I know it will be great just because we will all be together.

  4. THis is such a great post! Holiday spending can very easily get out of hand…and who wants to be stressed at Christmas??!! Most years we go over budget, although, this year we’ve done ok…but there’s always “just one more thing” that is looming on the horizon.

    i love the idea of making, creating…giving from the heart. However, has it gone out of style in some fashion. It’s almost looked down upon in some ways. I remember my mom baking and baking. Then we would create the greatest gifts out of her homemade treats, jams, and ornaments. Then we would deliver them. people were so excited to see us at their door…and believe me, they waited for us every year. I hope I can bring my own family back to that.

    1. You are so right about giving handmade gifts being “out of fashion”. I’ve gotten very odd looks when I’ve suggested doing all out gifts that way. Hopefully it’s coming back, though. I think the popularity of Etsy proves that people have a new appreciation of handmade.

  5. Timely reminder. I am having fun making gifts this year.
    And I love to receive presents. One of my favorites is a letter telling what you love about the other person.
    Merry Christmas.

  6. I ADORE this post, of course!

    My Granny ALWAYS makes us Chex mix, and peppermint bark, and it’s a fight to keep any of it past New Years Eve. She has also made my children scarves, fleece blankets, and beautiful quilts!

    I know we’re asking for ‘dance lessons’ this year — money toward Rachel’s future dance career, or ballet shoes, etc. Your #4 made me smile, thinking of my daughter.

    I’d like to add a TREASURED book to your wonderful list — passing on a favorite to a niece, nephew, or grandchild. I LOVE to give books as gifts.

    And …. when are you coming to babysit?

    1. How did I leave out BOOKS? It was the running joke in the family that I always got everyone’s kids books. If there was a book-shaped package they’d all know it was from me!

  7. Hey! I used to cross-stitch before I blogged!!! I made so many little pillows. I put up one each season!

    I don’t stress over the holidays or presents. The girls get sort of equal in numbers, and $$ amounts. It is hard because Emily’s stuff is usally more expensive than Sarah’s, but she understands. She also has a b-day the week before so it makes things easier.

    I always have the girls make their cards and they are so proud and people love them more than a store bought one.

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