It’s that time of of year again, the Thanksgiving feast not yet settled in our stomachs (for those outside the U.S., substitute your own time marker), the conversation inevitably turns to previous holidays, Black Friday, and that most dreaded of all questions What do you want for Christmas?
Dreaded because there are always those among us who are unprepared. Those who can only say “I don’t really need or want anything.” Which in such a discussion is like a Hollywood screech of feedback or record scratch followed by total silence, with all eyes turning toward the commotion. How could someone not have a yards-long wishlist filled with all the treasures that advertising has told them they should acquire?
Whichever side of that question you find yourself on, this thread is for you. Please add your own thoughts, regarding either or both sides.
Personally, I loved Christmas as a kid (partly because of all the loot!) and I try to still enjoy it as an adult, but this gets more difficult as I get older. As some background, my family tradition on Christmas is that we take turns opening presents, one at a time. The expectation is that that will take most of the day, with time in the afternoon/evening to enjoy the gifts, visit others, or just relax. So gifting is kind of a big deal, with many gifts both given and received. That makes “I don’t want anything.” a bit problematic.
It was easier when we were all younger and did need and want more. But as we get older, and we’ve accumulated more along with the ability to get what we need, it gets a lot more difficult. Now it’s a double-sided dilemma. The giver wants to experience the joy of giving, best of all giving something that the recipient truly wants and that will bring them joy. But the recipient has to graciously accept something that they didn’t want, knowing full well that in a few years they’ll be stricken with guilt and remorse when they come across it while cleaning the basement/garage/closet, having only used it once or not at all, and having to decide whether it can be sold, donated, or should just go into the dumpster.
Gift cards are not a good answer. They get tucked away ‘in case they might be useful someday’, forgotten about, and eventually either lost or found, but with no way to extract their exact value, best converted to Amazon credits. Save the activation fees and usage limitations. May as well exchange cash, although if you’re each giving each other a $20 in fungible cash, there’s no net change, so may as well skip it.
Other than that, I think John Scalzi put most of my thoughts into some pretty good words in What I Want for Christmas: Not a Damn Thing.
I’d rather have, say, a mix CD of your favorite songs, or a picture that you took that you think is especially artful, or a goofy drawing, or whatever, than just about anything you could buy in a store. Because I have enough stuff I can buy, and can get stuff I can buy easily enough; there’s an almost infinite number of ways to buy crap in our society. What I can’t get in any store — pretty much by definition — is something that’s personal.
But there are a couple of other good thoughts in threads like What a request for no gifts means.
Look… do we really have to have the “No means no” conversation again?
I want things that I would never think to buy for myself. And therein lies the problem: if I don’t think about buying it for myself, how can I tell you I want it?
So, what are your thoughts? How do you deal with people that don’t want anything? Or if you are one, how do you deal with those who insist that you must want something? If you’ve managed to transition from a highly-commercialized holiday to something better, how did you do so?