The holidays can be overwhelming in the best way. They are busy, but can be stressful, yet full of fun outings. They involve fun holiday traditions, but can be financially difficult, include gatherings of family and friends, great food and drinks, and ‘cheersing’ to another spin around the sun coming to a close.

One of the things that can make this time of year so stressful is the time, energy, and money spent on gifts. The consumerism part of the holiday sometimes brings out the worst in people and the magic of holiday celebrations can get a little lost under all that stuff. Of course it’s fun for little ones to believe in the magic of santa, or enjoy their 8 days of Hanukkah gifts, and often the act of giving can be a really amazing feeling too. But it doesn’t have to center around that, and it certainly doesn’t have to stress us out if we can help it.

people walking shopping in winter

We are reminding you there are less overwhelming ways to share and give during the holidays, if you have the means, that won’t break the bank or consume all of your time. So you can take the kids ice skating, decorate those cookies, or sip an eggnog in some cozy jammies while watching a hallmark holiday movie- whatever you enjoy this time of year.

“For the last 2 years, and this year will be the 3rd, my immediate family has decided to forgo gifts. The first year we decided to all pitch in what we’d normally spend on each others gifts and donate it somewhere. We chose Make A Wish as it was a foundation that was close to our hearts, as they gave our family an amazing trip when my brother was going through cancer in 2003. We always knew one day when we had the means that we wanted to be able to return the gift. To our surprise, we had some extended family and friends join the donation efforts and we were able to give over $6000, which funded an entire wish trip for a family to go on a disney cruise! We even got to meet the family later on and hear about their trip. It was such a rewarding experience, and it made shopping that year a breeze. Our family still did small stocking gifts so we had something to open on christmas morning, we did a few fun “gift” games at our get togethers, and the kids in our life still got gifts from us as we believe that’s part of the magic. The next year we did a donation to West Coast Kids Cancer Foundation, as they were just emerging and getting their start, and this year we’ll choose something new. It has been the best new tradition we’ve adopted, and has helped us actually enjoy the holiday instead of being stressed out.” – The Dunbars (Dave & Suzanne Dunbar sit on the board for CCFSupport)

It’s important to remember that giving is receiving, and you can include everyone in that, even the kids. You don’t have to give up gifts either if you don’t want to! Or you could try and give experiences as gifts instead of “stuff”, that’s always super personal and memorable for the giver and the recipient.

Consider a “good deed” advent calendar where you try to do something selfless each day of the month; for example buy someone their coffee, talk to a stranger, leave an extra tip for your barista. You could take your family to a local soup kitchen and donate your time serving others. You could also get involved in an effort that sets up less fortunate families with some christmas magic- gifts to open on christmas morning, a turkey dinner, etc. OR you could donate what you’d spend on gifts like the Dunbars have, or even do a 50/50 split- donate half, and use the other half to take a trip or do something fun together.

Whatever you decide to do with your family this year, is up to you, and we just hope you have a wonderful time celebrating with the ones you love the most, and remember what it’s all about!