A Christmas Without Presents

A Christmas Tree With Presents

I overheard an interesting conversation at work recently. The topic was about Christmas presents. One lady explained that she had all of her Christmas shopping done. Another explained that she had yet to begin.

I chimed in and told them that I had yet to buy many presents because I’m such a procrastinator. Their response was, “Most men are.”

After a brief moment of silence, a third lady joined the conversation and said, “I haven’t bought a Christmas present in years.”

We all stood silent, waiting for the lady to explain.

“My husband and I agreed that we weren’t going to give presents to each other. That was the end of Christmas presents for us.”

One of the ladies challenged her view, “So what do you do for presents then?”

She replied, “I don’t need a holiday to tell me when or when not to buy presents for those dear to me. For me, Christmas is year-round.”

After that comment, the conversation drifted towards the absurdity of retail holidays. However, the lady’s comment about not buying presents made me ponder. What if there was a Christmas without presents? I have never gone a Christmas without presents, but it makes so much sense that Christmas is not about rushing to the store to cross a name off of a list.

I pose a question to the reader: what do you think Christmas would be like if there were no presents involved?

28 thoughts on “A Christmas Without Presents

  1. It would be really difficult to stop the tradition of giving gifts because it is so ingrained into our society. I don't necessarily have a problem with the giving of gifts — just the time spent shopping and the obligation that often accompanies it. I do think it would be interesting to "fast" from giving gifts one year, just to get the focus back on Jesus and spending time with family. Many people wouldn't understand, but perhaps one could get their immediate family to go along with it for one year.

  2. Bill Tetzeli says:

    I’ve been wondering about a presentless Christmas lately. Most of the stress seems to come from the whole presents thing. Get rid of that and suddenly you’ve got Thanksgiving with church and carols. Instead of supporting the economy with your dollar, you’re supporting the spiritual economy with a celebration of the Son of Man who lived to teach us and died for our sins. Or maybe presents could be given, but to the needy. That would restore Christ to Christmas, we could have the holiday and ditch the stress.

  3. I would like to relate what just happenend this past Christmas. I have moved my family this year from Los Angeles to Brussels, Belgium. Money is supertight and my wife and I discussed not buying presents this year. However, I went ahead and bought gifts because my belief is that you just HAVE to have presents at Christmas time. But instead of making my wife feel surprised and happy, she felt guilty (for not buying me anything) and angry for me buying things she didn’t truly need. I had practically ruined Christmas. In fact, only one gift made her happy and it was a 5 dollar bottle of maple syrup. After my wife and I made up, I realized if I had just given her the bottle of maple syrup (which is not a commonly available item in Belgium), everything WOULD have been perfect. So next year, it’s a Christmas presentless Christmas. Thanks for your thoughts!

  4. renee says:

    I announced to my family that I have no intention of buying Christmas presents this year. First of all there is no way gift buying will fit in my budget. And second of all, we just celebrated Thanksgiving, with total emphasis on the dinner and watching movies together. The whole family enjoyed it, the children’s dad enjoyed cooking the Thanksgiving meal, and there was much less stress.
    So we are already making plans to just do a Christmas dinner and watch movies that day. Maybe have some extra snacks and cookies as well.

  5. felicia anderson says:

    I’m having a presentless Christmas this year. I’m only 19 and have not yet experienced a Christmas without the material end of it, but my family is going through a horrible financial situation right now. Not only are we not giving presents, but we don’t have any decorations or a tree or anything, since we are being forced to move three days after Christmas. I realize this is an opportunity to focus on what Christmas should be really about- the birth of Christ- but I can’t help but feel sad that we are being forced because of financial reasons to take this focus instead of having it be a choice. Maybe when I’m older and no longer in that “i’m right all the time because i’m 19″ stage i’ll see it as a blessing.

  6. KATHY says:

    If we all spent the time and energy on celebrating the true meaning of Christmas instead of running around shopping, I think the children would benefit more. What good are all those presents when the children playing with them are not taught about Jesus. I am guilty of this as well, all though I have cut all the adults off my gift list. We should focus on the birth of baby Jesus and celebrate the season for that and forget about the presents.

  7. For me Christmas was never about the gifts. Sure, it’s nice to receive gifts, and to see how happy your loved one is when you give her(him) a present, but for me Christmas was always about preparing a nice christmas meal, singing carols on Christmas Eve, and watching movies that were base on Christmas stories.

    I can’t wait for Christmas.

  8. I’ve been trying for years now to get my husband’s family to go to a gift exchange system, so we could all spend a little less moula. This would make my life so much easier and far less stressful. I love the holidays and the hustle and bustle of it all. I especially love to spruce up my house, but I hate getting “stuff” type gifts and I don’t love giving them either. I wish we had a few less presents over the holidays, but I would have a hard time going “gift free”.

  9. i was jus reading your post about its weird not to spend time with your family on christmas. I think that its is best to spend time with the family and elminate all vacations that you have jsu to be with your family you grew up with. It will be a fun time and plus eveyone talks good times!

  10. Kris says:

    I have been realizing, over the last few years, how materialistic our culture is. I have 2 young children, and want to de-emphasize stuff. Instead of presents, I am trying to come up with ways we can have fun by do things together–making ornaments/craft projects, baking, going to see christmas lights and displays, and most of all… not buying a bunch of crap they don’t need.

  11. Over the past several years, My wife’s family and I have been celebrating Christmas with very few presents…or better yet, NO PRESENTS AT ALL! And all this has made me realize, that JESUS is the REAL meaning of the season, and that the most important things in life…AREN’T “things,” but it’s all about the PEOPLE in my life, and the LOVE we share, for the holidays…AND ALL YEAR ROUND. :-)

  12. My mother-in-law is all about spoiling the grand kids all year round, not just at Christmas. They are also about us giving of our precious time, not necessarily money, to help those less fortunate or to role model for kids! If only everyone is the world would think more like this the world would be a much better place.

    • Gaylord Cohen says:

      I agree. However, both my sisters-in-law DO each have children, both are young sons, one aged 6 years, and the other is aged 2. And in a way, Christmas is really all about the kids in our lives…I’m sure they need Santa Claus more than we “old farts” do! ;-)

  13. Agonizing over gifts can detract from the true spirit of Christmas. I think the retailers have kidnapped Christmas and make us feel we need to buy gifts to show our love. A gift from the heart can be given at any time of the year.

  14. I had practically ruined Christmas. In fact, only one gift made her happy and it was a 5 dollar bottle of maple syrup. After my wife and I made up, I realized if I had just given her the bottle of maple syrup. A gift from the heart can be given at any time of the year.

  15. Rachel Gardner says:

    We decided at Thanksgiving time that we would not be exchanging gifts for Christmas. I’ve always thought Christmas was too commercial and stressful trying to return the kind gestures. There were times I labored over the “perfect gift” only to have it broken or lost the first week after Christmas. Material things are only weakening our society as we continue to put all of our efforts into what we’ll be getting/buying next. Almost as if buying things are going to make us happy and if we can’t buy, then the joy of life has been infringed upon. Now it’s two weeks into December and my 11 and 12 year old boys are already expressing hope in receiving specific toys for Christmas. When Christmas morning comes and we have indeed not bought them presents are they going to loose the magical feeling of gift giving/receiving? The real question is, do I have enough faith that the true meaning of Christmas will bring us joy? We plan on reading the nativity story with them from the Bible and playing family games but will it be enough?

  16. Is this a financial decision or a religious decision?

    I’m asking because giving is part of our Christmas culture and giving does not mean that everyone has to rush out to WallyWorld and spend lots of money. And I don’t think you’ll find anything in the bible against giving.

    You could make something for the kids.

    Or you could shop at the Salvation Army or Good Will or any of the Church sponsored Thrft Shops where your money will do double duty. You can buy each other something decent while knowing the money is going to a good cause.

    • Rachel says:

      Christmas has come and gone and we really had a wonderful time. Not perfect, but nothing was lacking do to the lack of “lots of presents”. Because it wasn’t a financial decision to not do gifts, there were gift exchanges between the six kids (they drew names) and we did one small ($25 range) for each child from us parents. Our 12 year old boy was having the most difficulty accepting “no Santa” but he came up to us Christmas Eve and said with satisfaction “I know who Santa really is, it’s Jesus”. Our youngest (11 year old) commented that Christmas was just as fun as all the other years. Our children really have all that they need and many things that their friends don’t have. The 12 year old made a comment how happy he was that he was part of a family with both his parents still married and living together with the children at home.

      We didn’t shop at a second hand store only because that’s what we do any way and the kids wanted something “new”. We just kept it at certain dollar limit. As old as most of my children are (11, 12 15, 19,19, and 21 years old), they can earn and buy the larger dollar item them selves if it’s that important. Most of it I don’t think is that important.

  17. Ellis says:

    When I was little, my favorite christmas activities were making the cookies, raiding the tree of candy canes and drinking hot chocolate while watching a christmas movies. As I got older (12 ish), I just loved hanging out with family I only saw once a year.

    My favorite presents will always be those stockings (somehow always smelling like mulling spices) filled with an apple an orange, a large candy cane and packet of hot chocolat.

  18. Thomas says:

    I haven’t gotten a Christmas gift from anyone in years. It sucks. Shower your loved ones with gifts and spare no expense, make each and every Christmas you have with them count.

  19. chelle says:

    We are not wealthy by American standards, but by the standards of most of the people of the planet we are. My kids have so many toys i don’t have room for them all. Next year I want to tell each side of the family they can only get the kids one present-and nothing for me and my husband unless it’s a photograph or a handmade gift. I don’t want anyone to feel bad but I hate focusing on material things so much. we both have large families and the amount of junk is ridiculous. each year we give an ornament either handmade by the boys or with a photo and a photo calendar of the kids. everyone loves it!

  20. If we all spent the time and energy on celebrating the true meaning of Christmas instead of running around shopping, I think the children would benefit more. What good are all those presents when the children playing with them are not taught about Jesus. Thank you.

  21. Kelley says:

    I am really struggling with this idea. My children are still young (2 and <1), and I want to start building traditions now that will shape our Christmases in the future. It is very important to me that Christmas is not materialistic, but I found myself buying tons of stuff last year that the kids needed, but I just bought it all at Christmas. I definitely want to cut back, and possibly eliminate gifts this year, but I don't want to lose the magic of Christmas morning. There are tons of wonderful things to do around the holidays and throughout the day as a family, but how do I keep the magic of Santa Clause without gifts? I would really love some suggestions!
    The other thing I'm struggling with is my parents and sibling. When I brought this up last year, if you can believe it, it sparked huge arguments. My parents were offended, thinking I was passing judgement on the way they chose to raise me – even though I assured them it was the magic of the Christmases they gave me that I was trying to preserve, and the entire family were angered that I was taking the joy out of Christmas by asking them not to buy us gifts. Even the suggestion of donating to charity, etc. were turned down flat. How do we handle these types of things?

  22. Crystal says:

    This year we all agreed to donate $50 to a charity of our choice. All the kids are grown and all the parents/aunts/uncles are pretty much retired and have everything they need.

    What has always mattered has been getting together as a family and just enjoying each other’s company.

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