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Take the No New Gifts Holiday Challenge

"So why not take a shot at this challenge this year?"

Now that my husband works in retail, I feel like asking people to stop with all of the gross commercialism is directly against my own livelihood! People are going to shop, no matter what we do, though, so I feel no shame in promoting what I think is not only a great idea for the environment, but a really meaningful activity that really promotes the entire holiday spirit: The No New Gifts Holiday Challenge.

The idea is simple: instead of buying anything new, you exchange other gifts—such as something handmade, something baked, or even services (babysitting is always my favorite gift!). You could even spend money if you feel you have to by purchasing something secondhand, such as from a thrift store. My favorite aunt has this down to a science! You could also volunteer together or simply vow to spend time together—another favorite gift of mine is when my middle sister buys us movie passes to spend a whole day together every winter.

I remember when I was young how we only had a few select gifts that were so meaningful to us—a favorite teddy bear, maybe, or a wagon. In middle school my family was so poor that they couldn’t afford to purchase gifts for us; my father was an often laid-off carpenter who frequently sold things—tools, cassette tapes, whatever we had—for grocery money. I remember coming home once to a black trash bag full of gifts for us all that had been left by a local charity. In fact, I still don’t know who it was from—though I have a suspicion that a close aunt was involved—but I am grateful for whoever thought of us that year, particularly for my younger sisters, who would have been crushed without a Christmas.

Holidays really meant something to me, to us, back then. Being together was the most important part of Christmas, and my grandmother’s face used to light up every time she saw us—and the homemade gifts we brought her. When my mother was a child, times were even bleaker; she often received fruit in her stockings as a treat. Today’s families are so wrapped up in electronics and name brands and who knows what else that they seem to forget what the holidays are about: family.

So why not take a shot at this challenge this year? It’s only one Christmas, after all, and you might just find that it makes all the difference this year—not just for your family, but for yourself, too.