December 20, 2013

Simplify The Holidays

“I was thinking recently about what I remember most about my grand-parents, and I realized that I don’t remember a single gift they gave me as a child. Instead, I remember the time that I spent with them.”      
— Erin Peters

Would you like your holiday season to be more about meaning and less about stuff? If so, you are in good company. A national survey showed that more than 75% of Americans wish the holiday season were less materialistic.

90% of the survey respondents reported feeling that family and helping others was more important than giving and receiving gifts. But what happens when our values are up against advertising and our own distorted expectations?

Of course the National Retail Federation is paying close attention to such things. They are like a Santa that charges lots of money for the gifts in the sack. The NRF do extensive research to keep a close eye on our holiday spending habits. Are consumers being spending-naughty? Or spending-nice?

I am sure they have been happy with the answers they are finding in their big, red data bag gleaned from Santa-like surveillance. They know when you are spending, and they know when you stop.

The Retail Federation's busy elves report that last year, holiday spending increased 3.5% to $579.5 billion. 2011’s grand total of $560.2 billion was a 5.1% increase over 2010. On average, annual holiday spending has increased 3.3% for the last 10 years.

I can remember a lot of great holiday celebrations, but can't remember many presents. Most people would agree that the best things about the holidays are spending time with friends and family, sharing good food, laughter and stories, and not what kind of loot you get.

We can opt out of the frenzy of shopping and gift-giving if it feels oppressive, and create better, more meaningful and simplified holiday alternatives.


  1. Hooray! We are nixing the gifts and donating to our loved ones' favorite charities instead. We are fortunate enough to want for nothing and it feels good and clear to give to our local food bank, animal shelter, and fellow-humans. I have not set foot in one store in the past few months and it is awesome to sit back and need to feel pressure or strain over "having" to buy for a large list - as you said, they won't recall the gift in a month's time anyway. Thanks for your good work.

    1. Erin,

      Congratulations on getting the consumerism out of your holiday season. When that happens the true meaning of our celebrations comes through - helping each other, and celebrating life now that the nights are getting shorter and the sun starts to return.

      Together, we have made it through another year. Precious moments.

  2. Scarily I had cause to go into K-Mart to get cat litter and cat bikkies the other day. I swear to god I was about to have an anxiety attack with the queues, the tolleys piiled high of what truly was tantamoun to shi$$$.My daughter is getting one simple $20 second hand fish tank (for a lizard) and that is it. She's happy about it, doesn't need anything else. Such clever posts you write- love them.

    1. T.M.,

      The last time Linda and I went into a large mall it was like an episode of The Twilight Zone. It felt like all the exits disappeared and we were trapped in a shiny, glittering consumer hell where everyone gets everything they want. Help!

      Happy holidays to you and your family. Congratulation on steering clear of the shi$$$.

  3. staying out of large stores if the first order of business. you keep sane that way. given that if we don't own it already, we don't want it, gifts are usually a magazine, some nice soap--locally made and sold, things won at charity silent auctions--that can actually be very funny.. Getting together with friends and adopting a few families is so much more fun. Again, shopping locally in smaller shops it so much easier. O.K. I got my dog something.

    As to what gifts I received as a child. I do remember some. /they were usually the small, inexpensive things my Mom bought as an after thought. Used to drive her crazy. its not much different today.

    Many these days though may actually put off purchasing things they need and then giving them as Christmas presents. There isn't the money there once was, people just don't have that much. When one in five children in B.C. are living in poverty, how much shopping can actually go on. its much more fun to "adopt" a child or a family and purchase gifts for them. that way people who need it, receive it. Giving a group of children a new coat or boots is so much more fun than and more in keeping with the spirit of Christmas.

    Once the trees are up all I want is the turkey dinner. stuff my face with food which isn't that good for me, but what a way to go.

    Thank you for the effort you put into this blog. It has made a change in my life. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

    1. e.a.f.,

      Everything you are saying makes sense. Buy local, cherish the small things, and take care of each other.

      Enjoy your turkey dinner and celebrations with your loved ones (including your lucky dog). Thank you for your thoughtful contributions to our blog.

  4. For the past few years, I've made all family members' Christmas gifts, whether it be a food gift, or something I crocheted or hand-crafted. Often I include a bottle of local wine or my husband will include a growler of his home-brewed beer. Sadly I don't think either of our families will ever NOT want to do the gift thing at Christmas (my husband told his sister last year that he would rather have money donated to a charity in his name because he doesn't want or need any more stuff, but she balked and said "That's not really a gift. I'm going to get you SOMETHING." Aaarggh!!!), so this is our way of giving our families something from the heart while being non-consumers at the same time. We do, however, still get our nieces and nephews a little something, but it's always something like a game, craft kit, science kit, and/or book - something they can do and learn - instead of cheap plastic junk that will just end up in the garbage.

    1. Nicole,

      Wow - so many good ideas for keeping an emphasis on the acts of giving and generosity while at the same time reducing the emphasis on consumerism.


Comments are moderated to eliminate spam. We are proudly a no buying, no selling website.

We love reading all comments, and respond when time permits.