When I wrote about my family doing the No New Gifts Holiday Challenge, I received a couple comments that I was a Grinch:
You must be a drag to live with. ‘What kind of deprivation and sacrifice has Daddy got for us today?’
I couldn’t agree more lol, I’m sure kids see him as the Grinch, i feel sorry for them. I doubt his kids would be like ‘Yes dad, don’t buy me the latest Call of Duty game, i don’t want the 1% to get richer.’
While I was touched by the concern for my kids, I am not worried:
- My kids have plenty of video games and electronics (including the latest COD game). They earn money and buy them themselves, and learn that if they want something, they can earn it, and it’s not handed to them.
- My kids have everything they need and much more. If anything, they have too much, but I try not to force my minimalist philosophy on them.
- Instead of deprivation, my kids are learning that there is much more to Christmas than getting a bunch of presents. (More below.)
- They are learning to be creative instead of consuming. This lesson is more necessary today than ever.
- We are learning that spending time with family is more important than spending money or spending time shopping.
- Together we are creating new traditions based on creativity, fun, and giving, not just buying.
- We are thinking of ways to give that don’t necessarily involve shopping — making gifts, volunteering, donating to charity, etc.
The reaction of my kids when I talked to them (once again) about not buying presents? They completely understood my anti-consumerism reasoning, and they were excited to come up with new ideas. Honestly. I was really proud of them when I sat down with them (individually and in groups) and talked about these ideas — they didn’t look disappointed at all, they in fact happily thought of some cool things we could do together.
Some ideas they’re excited about doing this Christmas instead of buying new gifts:
- Making our own gifts. My son Seth is really, really excited about making stuff. In fact, he wants to make something for himself and wrap it up to open on Christmas morning. Yes, he’s a bit weird, but I love that. Eva wants to sew gifts for people.
- Baking gifts. We love baking, and it’s a fun activity to do together. And we can give cookies, cupcakes, brownies as gifts to family, make them fatter, but not clutter their homes with needless possessions.
- Going to play in snow. We’re from Guam, so snow is a novelty for us. My kids know it from Christmas movies and the like, but it’s not a yearly tradition for us — so driving to play in snow is really fun. We love making snow people, snow forts, snow angels, and having snowball fights.
- Volunteering. We’re not sure where we want to volunteer this year (in past years we’ve done soup kitchens and Salvation Army bell ringing), but we do like the idea of giving.
- Christmas caroling. We aren’t good singers, but we love singing Christmas songs.
- Playing games. We love, love board games and other such games. We love getting together with family and playing games and sports. Having fun with family doesn’t have to involve gifts.
- Make decorations. It’s so much fun to put up festive decorations, and if you can make them yourselves, even better.
And this is just the start of the ideas we’ve come up with. Sure, buying gifts is a holiday tradition — but is it the only possible tradition? Can’t we create new ones?
My kids are not deprived. In fact, I think our family is very lucky, and I hope to show others that creativity, fun, giving, and family bonding are amazing things that you can do without being a participant in the usual consumerism.
Leo Babauta writes about simple productivity at Zen Habits.
For more “fun and cheap” Christmas game ideas, printable worksheets, and loads of other activities you can do with your child, check out Christmas Games and Activities for Kids.