Crap Free Christmas- The Relative Edition

Family gifts can be difficult, the whole issue is fraught with tensions, feelings and individual expectations that bubble like lava under the surface only to show up in a snarky holiday letters or passive aggressive comments from one distant family member to another (or maybe that is just my family?)

I have spoken with dozens of people about this and found multiple levels of family angst when it comes to jumping off ( or staying on) the commercial holiday bandwagon and what to do about. Grandmothers who are offended and assert they have a right to buy the grand kids as many toys as they want  to Grandparents who feel like they are being held hostage for the big tickets gifts for grandkids that the parents can't afford to give but have promised to the little tikes.   I could fill a book with these stories!

I don't have the answers, my own foray into jumping off the crazy wagon was met with such an aggressive backlash that parts of  the extended family did not speak to us for years ( seriously) and this was really painful when my only intention was to add more meaning to the holiday. So be forewarned that changing things up might cause you to get a lump of coal in your stocking!

SO.. where does that leave us you ask?.. Maybe you want to give a bit of something to family in your extended tree but you want it to be usable and meaningful.  Some opt for the classic tower of treasures from place like Harry and David's but this has gotten a lot more tricky over the years with more people on special diets. Heck the cookie tower I used to love getting ( it was a corporate gift) now makes me weep in frustration due to us not eating sugar or grains.  So at the very least make sure you know the dietary needs of the family before you buy one of these treats!

On my part I am going with one of two gifts this year-

The first is a VERY old school choice, but oh so comforting on those cold nights-  The Hot Water Bottle

This is a quality German version that is quite nice but since I like to add a bit of a handmade touch I am going to be making my own covers but still needed bottles ( hard to find!).. so am getting these

I am doing something similar to this to make the covers   CLICK HERE

My second gift is also old school ( guess that is my theme this year)... A Firewood Carrier
 This style is perfect for embellishment or monogramming and at this price I am buying not making!

Up next.. a couple of fun kits you can make that will get used and will not break the bank.


Diane R said...

Dear DA - once again, you are right on target, on all fronts...yes, we all could benefit from dialing down the Xmas madness, and yes, your extended family can feel much angst when you do this - which they will, in their own way, share with you (insert the passive-agressive comments here). My best gift ever was the Cherry Pit Pack, which serves the same purpose as your hot water bottle without the sloshing sounds. Trouble is, everyone (and I do mean everyone) now has one...what do I do for an oncore? You are right about any food gift - what was once a pleaser to just about everyone is now hard to do for anyone. Between diet restictions and medical issues, I am down to fruit only baskets - and everyone has gotten at least one of those, too. None of my family have real fireplaces, so the wood carrier is out. I am thinking of giving everyone a book - "Unplug The Christmas Machine". If everyone gets that this year, maybe next year I will have a few more people who think the coupon for dinner and game night is a good idea, not a cop out gift.

Suzanne said...

Dear Maddie,

I tried to leave a comment yesterday but it wouldn't stick. I hope this time it works. In a nutshell, yesterdays comment was essentially, "Why would anyone get pissed at your suggestions?" After today's post I understand. We tried to tone down Christmas years ago by "drawing names" so you only bought one gift per person, followed by keeping the dollar amount under $20, and so on. It was met w/some resistance but no real backlash.

The other side of the family was even more aggressive - "let's not even exchange gift!" and we were fine with that. Now that all the kids are in their 20's and 30's we don't even exchange Christmas cards. Needless to say, we are not a close family but at least no one's feelings get hurt.

One suggestion for a family gift - that of course will probably be met with resistance is giving a certain dollar amount to a charity in that family's name. THAT is my favorite. Or, adopting a family in need together. You get the joy of shopping for things the family wants/needs and you feel like the proverbial Santa!

Keep up the great posts!

Tessie in Texas said...

U think Harry n David type gifts are meaningful? I see them as impersonal. In the past, we have donated them, except fruit, to charity.
If someone does not want to give gifts, I say that is their choice, BUT I dont think anyone has a right to tell EVERYONE in the family what to do. I like making gifts, but giving everyone the same thing is very impersonal. Let each do "their own thing".

Linda said...

I am an age probably close to your own Mama's but I remember the years I tried with making things or buying less. You should have heard what MY Mama had to say (and be glad you didn't hear the words) I am not Christian faith, which also brought it is any one else's business how I choose to worship. I simply hate the commercialism. There is one part of my family who are very wealthy. The expectation has seemed to be that I should meet a certain "standard" of gifting.....what happened instead is that I have withdrawn from the joy of the season and look forward to days that should be filled with family interaction instead being treated like a pariah.. Oh my goodness, I have opened a pandoras box of stuff here dear heart. I love nothing more than giving things I create from my heart, but there are people who have no appreciation and so I only dream of what I might give them.
Thank you for your ideas. My european hot water bottle has just bit the dust. I couldn't find a rubber hwb so got one of the microwavable moist heat pad. It just does not work the same and cool quickly. I am off to amazon to find a REAL hwb. Mazel ton dear heart. Ieep up your wonderful blog.

AnnaPK said...

I just added the wood carrier to my amazon cart. It was all ready on my list but you found one a great price! I have one teen on my list and I was at a loss for her but I am going to reread your ideas for her. :)

I am, and have been for a couple of years, on board with you! I am trying to make as many gifts as I can which I hope will not only save me some $ but teach my kids that a gift from the heart is most important.