Gift giving at the holidays is a wasteful, crazy sham.

What is the point of gifts at Christmas and Hanukkah?

Some consider the Christmas ritual tied to the three wise men bringing gifts to baby Jesus. What that has to do with today’s hoopla is beyond me. Let’s be honest, giving me a gift or me giving you one at Christmas has nothing to do with Jesus. This holiday gift giving is a bizarre custom.

How much stuff do people really need? (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Another reason I’ve been told there is all this holiday gift giving is to show the recipient you like them, care for them, love them, they mean something to you, blah, blah, blah. If the only way you know someone cares about you is through some material item wrapped in colorful paper, that isn’t much of a relationship.

Don’t get me wrong, I love to give and receive gifts. I just prefer to give a gift on someone’s birthday—to make it all about them. Though what I hear about children’s birthday parties these days makes even those occasions seem steeped in materialism and the parents trying to outdo each other. Sad.

I love gift giving at some random time because I saw something that made me think of that person.

The expectations of what one hopes will be under the tree, in a stocking or at the daily candle lighting is off the charts. The problem is when we expect a gift. And to think we indoctrinate children into these rituals in their infancy, then perpetuate the nonsense each year until perhaps one day some adult realizes the fallacy in this gift giving.

According to the National Retail Federation, the amount of money people spend on Christmas gifts has been increasing, with 2020 being an exception. The annual average expenditures were:

  • 2016 … $589
  • 2017 … $608
  • 2018 … $638
  • 2019 … $659
  • 2020 … $650.

That isn’t where the spending stops. It goes on with decorations, specialty foods and cards.

Financial services company Tally Technology reports, “In 2020, a MagnifyMoney survey found the average shopper took on $1,381 in holiday-related credit card debt. Just five years earlier, they took on just $986 in holiday debt. That’s a 40 percent increase, despite spending only $45.22 more on average in 2020—$952.57 in 2015 versus $997.79 in 2020.”

When people go into debt to buy gifts for any occasion, well, something is terribly wrong with our priorities.

The number of gifts given or received should not be an indication of how much someone cares about you or you about them. Stop the gift giving—even for children.

I realize numerous businesses of all sizes make a substantial percentage of their annual revenues in the fourth quarter. This means if the buying frenzy were to abruptly stop, it would have serious economic consequences. But what if we dispersed that spending throughout the year?

What if we spent some of that money on doing things with people instead of buying things for people? I know I have more life lifelong memories of experiences than I do of material objects.

A true gift this holiday season would be to say no to material gift giving. Give your family and friends, even your community, your time. It’s much more valuable and meaningful than anything you could ever wrap.

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