October 9, 2015

No Christmas Gifts, Please

It's October. That means cooler temperatures, trees turning brilliant colours, shorter days, and Christmas crap in the stores. Tis the season, then, to talk about how to stop the seasonal gift giving madness. 

For some of us there is only one thing worse than not getting gifts - and that would be getting gifts. Maybe you don't need anything. What do you do with the gifts you don't want or need?

Yesterday this blog received a comment about how to broach the subject of not wanting Christmas gifts with loved ones. 

Here is the comment that was posted on the Simplicity page:

"How do you tell your siblings that you don´t want anything for Christmas. They always insist on giving things for Christmas. I got so frustrated last year, I told one sister I needed a blanket, I don´t. I told the other one I needed a cardigan, I don´t. They insist on giving gifts to every one for Christmas. The youngest is 32. I am trying to go back to simple living but they don´t get it. Any advice?"

Knowing that many readers of Not Buying Anything celebrate simplicity at this time of year by declaring a moratorium on gift exchanges, I thought I would tap into this vast collection of excellent ideas and unique experiences.

So there you go. How do you stop the deluge of stuff in the upcoming season? How do you broach the subject without hurting feelings, but still getting your point across - No Christmas Gifts, please?

Thank you to the anonymous commenter for asking the important questions and getting the discussion going early this year.

Is it too early to say, "Happy Buy Nothing Christmas"?


  1. It took telling my mother that everything she gives me I turn everything over to charity before she could stop purchasing things for me. It sounds harsh (and it is), but it was the truth. Really people are so conditioned (like dogs) to give gifts for certain events that is is just about impossible to entrain them. Alas, we are all a product of our culture.

  2. I can accept a gift ( though I rarely get any, so it isn't a problem), but I give it to charity or change it if I don't need it. We don't do many gifts in our family atall, the ones that are given are often handmade or edible. Homemade jam for my mother, hand knitted gloves for cold hands, or a new bicycle helmet for a growing youngster or new football shoes. Practical and needed items. Christmas has arrived in the shops already here. Depressing and maddening. Pam in Norway

  3. hi, very interesting debate. i asked my friends and family not to buy anithing. but they still bought unnecessary stuffs for me and my girls. then as i cannot persuade them, i asked to make some little things homemade as jams, sauces, cakes. they're edible and don't take up space:)
    sorry for my english..i'm italian!

  4. Mostly I ask for no gifts, I don't have a lot of family so it's not too hard. My children are at an age where they like to give gifts so I insist it's something I need that I can use up - eg soap or tea leaves. I would like to abandon Christmas altogether with the kids and just get them something they need and like as and when they need it. But I think their exposure to the other side of the family will make this a hard adjustment for them. I did suggest we get rid of the Christmas tree and interestingly both kids said yes, do it. So I feel we are heading in the right direction.

    I think some family members may feel we are mean by not exchanging gifts, and also there is the pull of tradition and ritual which can be comforting and grounding for many. Perhaps if we can reaffirm our love for people and let them know we value their 'presence' more than 'presents', and would like to give them our 'presence' too.

    I almost feel the earth is in such a state that it's only a matter of time before the majority of people will wake up and realise we can't keep consuming like there's no tomorrow.

    If I want to give something to an adult friend it's normally organic cotton dish cloths I've knitted. Sourdough bread, homemade fermented veggies are things I've received and loved.


  5. Suggest you all exchange gifts that involve experiences--movie tickets, restaurant or grocery gift certificates, etc.

  6. Anonymous10/10/2015

    Thanks everyone. What is really sad is that since they insist on giving me gifts, I asked for gift cards to HEB, which is a grocery chain in Texas & they refused to give it to me, I guess it is not Christmassy enough.
    I think I´ll tell them that I will just give the gifts to charity. That should work.

  7. Anonymous10/10/2015

    It's a process. I asked my sister to stop with gifts a few years ago and we're still working on it. At least last year at x-mas she gave me treats to eat. Everyone else has excepted my request. My sister (and most folks) think it would be sad not to receive gifts, they don't get it that it doesn't bother me at all. They equate getting stuff with happiness, so we have to give them some slack until they awaken to the truth.

  8. Years ago Linda and I let everyone we know that we were not celebrating Christmas any more. Instead, we were going to observe the Winter Solstice. Guess what? No one we know exchanges Solstice gifts. Problem solved.

    It is nice to get together and have our time with each other be the gift that we are exchanging. No shopping or wrapping required.

    Thank you all for sharing your ideas for a less consumeristic holiday season. Many doable ideas that should keep everyone happy.

    1. Gregg, the solstice sounds like a great alternative!


    2. I like your idea very much. I may well adopt that myself

    3. We told friends we do not celebrate Christmas gifting as well. So far, it's worked.

  9. Anonymous10/13/2015

    The problem with this is a fundamental lack of recognition of what the social function of gifts. Gift exchange is an invitation to social relationships; it creates bonds. Opting out is odd and occasionally outright offensive because it implies an exit from the binding rituals of relationships. My suggestion is always to encourage immaterial gift exchange, or crafted exchange. Bake me a pie and I'll bring you a beer I brewed, or what have you. Food is the fundamental social exchange, so this way you can participate in the root purpose of gift exchange without acquiring mass quantities of junk.

    1. Gift giving should be a voluntary, spontaneous demonstration of love and friendship that occurs throughout the year. Christmas celebrations that have been consumerized can create a sense of obligation, and promote competitive gift giving.

      I don't think too many here are anti-gift exchange, but rather are anti-mindless gift exchange once a year just because "it is the thing to do". I do like your suggestions which are practical and meaningful for everyone, and do not rely on buying things people don't need.

  10. Anonymous10/17/2015

    I struggle with this every year. My parents don't understand that I don't think it is a good idea to indulge in buying stuff to show love, when we can just hang out and eat good (vegan) food together knowing that we love each other.

    My dad was here a few weeks ago with some old furniture he had found at his mothers house, she has moved to a smaller place, so stuff needs to go. The furniture is really beautifull, so I took down some shelves to make room for it. When it was in place, my dad jokingly said "There, that's your christmas present" and I grabbed at it, saying "Yes, that's a good idea". If he still insists on buying me a present I've decided to wish for a piece of Borneos rainforest.

    I've decided to crochet gifts for everyone this year. I like homemade presents better, since you give your time to people when crafting them. I always have the people I crochet for in mind when working, and it feels like weaving love into the items. Much better than stuff created from destruction and pain.

    Take care


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