After spending an entire lifetime of stressful Christmas’ and struggling to make sure I found the perfect gifts for all of the people on my list, I finally have given up. But, in a good way. My children are all adults. They are for the most part done with college and settled into their own respective careers. Do they really need socks, shirts, gift cards or electronics from me? No. If they need something they buy it or I do on one of many shopping trips throughout the year when I see that perfect something. I can’t hold off until Christmas. If they need it, or can use it, they get it right away. I’m not the most patient person. This new Christmas attitude started with my mother several years ago. My mom is 89 years old. There is very little that she needs other than day to day items and the company of her family. We started taking her places, usually a casino for an overnight stay and dinner. She just wants our time and we just want to build memories that we can hold on to forever.
This whole concept has eventually transferred itself onto my children and my husband. Through the Date Nights I have done with my husband over the last year and a half, I have come to the realization that doing a service for someone or making memories with someone is so much bigger and lasts so much longer than any sweater ever will. We made the switch with our kids last year. I bought plane tickets, theater tickets, and hotel rooms. Everyone was sent on a trip. I sent my husband with my youngest son to see their favorite 2 basketball teams play each other in Florida. I went with my daughter and oldest son to New York for a Broadway play and shopping. Yes, of course I made sure I got to be a part of it. Now for all of you who are thinking that these are extravagant gifts that would be difficult for a family to afford. I am really good at watching and waiting for airline ticket sales and the same with hotels (www.spirit.com, www.travelocity.com, www.groupon.com are just a few of many great websites.) You just have to be vigilant at checking prices and your email every day. The tickets for the events are a little more difficult to come by cheaply. But, I still spent the same altogether that I would have on an average Christmas. Now this still may be too extravagant. These things can be done on a much smaller scale as well. It’s all a matter of giving memories instead of presents.
Now, I know that many of you have smaller children. And, I’m sure the idea of them racing out on Christmas morning to find one small box with a piece of paper explaining that they are going on a trip in 2 months will not go over well. But, remember that the Christmas excitement will wear off after the first 20 presents are opened and they will be lost in the blur of plastic, color, and sound. And you haven’t even gone to Grandma’s yet!! That’s where the whole giving memories idea comes in. Tell your child they may ask for 3 or 4 gifts each year from Santa or you, depending on how things work in your household. Then tell them that you will be creating memories and that will be your gift. Then after they think you’re totally crazy, tell them that they will understand on Christmas morning. I guarantee you they will eventually begin to highly anticipate your gift over the “toys,” that they will open. Toys, clothes, and all other material things become less exciting after they are received. It’s all about the anticipation. The toys will be forgotten but planning for that fun weekend a little later down the road will be something they have to dream about for days to come. I recently read an amazing article written by Christella Morris, a fellow blogger. Her article was featured in the Huffington post. She actually asked all of her extended family members to stop buying gifts for her children because they already have everything they need. She asked them to instead make memories with her children. Take them to a movie. Spend a few hours at the Park. Arrange a “Date,” where they would sit and play games with them. She pointed out that so many times our children lose touch of our extended family and what better way to make, keep, and build those connections. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christella-morris/the-gift-of-not-giving-a-thing_b_4236040.html
It doesn’t have to be a trip. It can be Family Date Nights that are planned ahead of time and sealed in envelopes to be opened at the beginning of each month for a year. That’s something for them to look forward to the entire year. These can be as expensive or inexpensive as you like. If you look back through the Date Nights that I have posted in the past, you will find that most of them can be altered into a family night; Slumber Party, Progressive Dinner, Drive In Theater, Backyard Camp Out, Photo Scavenger Hunt, etc. All of these can be found in my blog history. You can also Google, Family Date Nights and a ton of ideas come up. (www.thedatingdivas.com is a great site for regular, or family Date Nights.)
Another idea is to have your family start a new tradition. Teach them about the importance of giving, and do a service project. Adopt a family for Christmas. Work in a soup kitchen on Christmas Eve. Tell them that they may ask for 4 things for Christmas. 3 things for themselves and one for a child in need. On December 14, 1982 an article entitled “My Most Moving Holiday Tradition,” won first place out of thousands of entries in Woman’s Day magazine. The woman in this entry talked about her husband who really disliked the commercialism of Christmas. She came up with an inspirational plan that became her gift to him for that Christmas and every one after. It’s a beautiful, moving story that I don’t want to spoil so click on the link to find out what happens… after you finish reading my post of course!
Now for your spouse you can make things a little more interesting. Hand your significant other a small plastic container with 18 small folded up pieces of paper in it. Then hand them another container with 18 more pieces of paper in it and tell them that the first container holds 18 fantasies that you have written down on those little pieces of paper. Now explain that you need him or her to write down 18 of his or her fantasies and fold them and put them in their container. After they are done, reach in without peeking and pull out one of their fantasies. Tell him or her that you have 2 weeks to make it happen. When you have completed your task, they will get to take a fantasy from your container. They will then also have 2 weeks to complete it. This will go on and should last the whole year. However you carry them out will be up to you but, it would be best to set some ground rules first. Nothing could ruin this faster than somebody being a little too freaky with their fantasies. Make them fun and spicy but keep in mind each other’s’ limitations and reservations. This is supposed to be fun, not terrifying. Unless you’re into that kind of thing, then have at it!
You could also create fantasy nights for your spouse by making non-traditional coupons that you will have to follow through on. These should be scheduled immediately so they actually feel as if they are a gift. When you are gifting this to your spouse give them a coupon that promises to go and do that thing that you hate doing but they would love to have you do: A baseball game, bar hopping, a play, a movie, a night of being a “HAPPY,” designated driver, etc. You could also give one that lets them invite all of their friends over for a football game, poker night, Bunco, game night, etc., and you will “HAPPILY,” act as waitress/waiter for the event. It’s all about sacrificing and doing something that you know would mean the world to them that you normally would NEVER do, and did I mention happily?? It’s one night. You will survive it, I promise! Suck it up!
In the end, memories are all you really have. You won’t remember that sweater, video game, pair of socks, etc. You will remember that great night, or weekend, or week with your loved ones. Go out and make some memories!!!