Fighting for a Simpler Christmas

Season’s Greetings to one and all! How has you Christmas been? I’ve come on here to air some of my frustrations about being a Minimalist at Christmas. I know you’ll understand.

We’ve been Minimalists for 4 years now and certainly our wider family and friends know about this by now. We are the butt of regular jokes about Minimalism which we try to take with good humour; since we also laugh at some of the lavish spending of our family and friends. However it really does start to grate with me now, 4 years on when we’ve specifically asked for people to respect our lifestyle and values at each seasonal celebration when we still get gifts we’d rather not be receiving. With the odd and rare exception, however thoughtful people think they are being, they are buying something that quite bluntly – we don’t want!

The fact is that we buy the chocolate we like to eat and don’t particularly enjoy the seasonal boxes of chocolates that people like to give. If we need biscuits, we go out and buy the ones that we love to eat. If we wanted seasonal fruits and nuts at Christmas, we would buy them. Inevitably also, all these things come wrapped in plastic which we try so hard to avoid with all our purchasing. We don’t want wasteful novelty gifts – no matter how much fun the giver thinks they will be – they will end up going to charity and I strongly suspect they have to bin them. We’d rather they weren’t created and resources weren’t needlessly wasted in the first place. Whatever hobby we have, we buy the tools that we have researched and would like to have, so it’s not helpful when people give us more. Do I sound ungrateful? Because I worry that’s how it comes across to family.

Sadly, they all seem to think we’re boring asking for gift cards  and ‘need’ something to open on Christmas Day (which we don’t and have tried with all our might to get this across). So every gift card seems to come attached to a box of chocolates, box of biscuits or other Christmas novelty – sigh. Actually the best gift we received this year was from a family friend, who via Unicef had donated a pair of warm, winter boots to a child abroad in need. Opening that card gave me a really warm feeling on Christmas Day which I didn’t get with any of my other gifts.

The trouble is that whether we don’t create a list and ask for nothing, or whether we create a very specific list – we still end up receiving gifts that we don’t want and then have to dispose of in a responsible manner. However for the largest part, our family did stick to either money or gift cards (although I worry  a little about the plastic waste those create, but surely a little plastic is better than whole items you don’t want or need?) A friend of ours (who is not a Minimalist) only ever asks for the essentials at Christmas, like socks and deodorants. That way he never has to worry about buying them for himself and gets to spend all his money on computing which is his first love. So perhaps I will start asking for bags of flour, oats, sugar and that kind of thing instead?! My family will probably then start to assume we are living in poverty but hey ho!

My husband and I have agreed that we need to try and find some alternative traditions to fill up Christmas Day with. We always enjoy a couple of good meals together, a short walk and usually a board game. Perhaps we just need to accept that that is special enough. Since most people do congregate under a loaded Christmas Tree and that is some sort of expectation around which the day centres. How do you deal with it, especially when celebrating with non-Minimalist family members? I promise I’m not Scrooge really, but still aligning my newer Minimalist values with older traditions. Any tried and trusted methods to get family to STOP buying you things you don’t want or need?

Bah humbug! 😉

6 thoughts on “Fighting for a Simpler Christmas

  1. I have really reduced, but not eliminated, the amount of gifts this year but I had to take drastic measures. I told my family if they bought me gifts I would set fire to them in my garden live on social media.

    I know there will be something from my nieces and nephew, but even I can’t traumatise a child by sticking their gifts on a bonfire!

    • Wow – that really is drastic measures! I agree, one needs to be careful where children are concerned. We opted to give our nephews (and their parents) a family gift voucher for a day out at a family attraction. We’re hoping they can learn by our example, since every year my brother asks us not to bring gifts on Christmas Day because they get so many they don’t appreciate them. Perhaps they will learn to stop asking for gifts too!

      • I couldn’t believe it when my sister in law told me she was taking the children out to the sales to buy new things with their Christmas money – the day after Boxing Day! A remote controlled toy had already flown over into another garden, a house with a grumpy owner so that’s not coming back any time soon. I don’t know what to say when she tells me this stuff.

  2. Bit late to this post, but I just wanted to say how much I agree. We get away with it for the most part (because I asked my rather reluctant family some years ago if we could stop exchanging gifts at Christmas), but one of my dear relatives still insists on giving us something even though we don’t reciprocate. This year it was “overdone” chocolates which I don’t really like, plus the associated non-recyclable packaging and a special gift set with chutney (neither of us like it so it hangs around the cupboard) plus some not very nice biscuits, plus some quite nice cheese that got eaten. But the packaging! I did resent having to get rid of it, some cardboard but that was all. It just reminded me of the bad old days – pre-minimalism! At least it is only one present I suppose.

  3. Several of our relatives continue to give us gifts even though we haven’t reciprocated for years. I’ve decided to accept them gratefully and then pass them onto people in need – like Foodbanks or charity shops. One year we were given a couple of lovely hampers – I mean, they do look great but we would not eat most of the contents like chutney, fruit cake, shortbread biscuits or old-fashioned boiled sweets. I actually gifted it back to the person a few months later, as I didn’t know what to give them for a significant birthday! I decanted everything out of the packaging into little glass jars etc and it was unrecognisable. They were thrilled, so I had to conclude that they gift items that they themselves would like to receive.

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