Holidays are for giving. Gift giving. And I mean actual gifts. Not, “I donate money to charity and send you a card that pretends you gave it,” and not, “Let’s just split the check on this dinner bill and that’s our gift!” No. I’m talking the kind you shop for, buy, and wrap. And I for one cannot stand and will not abide anyone who tries to remove gifts from the Christmas equation. You’d think it was unevolved or a straight-up sin to buy great shit and give it to people.

CHRISTMAS-PRESENTS-ARE-ALWAYS-WORTHYYou couldn’t be more wrong.

Yes, we live in a culture obsessed with stuff, 99% of which none of us needs. In fact, I’m willing to bet that not one of us would notice it really if we didn’t buy a nonperishable item in the next 12 months. Unless you died of boredom. Which I might. And yes, that very culture defines us not even as people, but as consumers. This makes some people just curl up in despair. Not me. I embrace my consumer self. Because when this time of year rolls around, my big consumer heart pulses and heaves with joy.

Look, I’m not fan of the Black Friday ritual of full-blown shopper mayhem either, and am not willing to risk life and limb to press through the doors of Best Buy for a flat screen TV. But Black Friday is and has always been about the savings, not the giving. There’s where it goes off the rails. Because an attempt to buy more stuff for less ultimately does little but, well, make you buy more. So you’ve got to separate out the crazy people-tramplers from the importance of gifts themselves. If you’re struggling to meet the financial demands of gift giving this year, think about how you can cut down on your every day costs such as by switching your energy provider with the help of Money Expert.

What I’m saying is, don’t throw the baby (Jesus) out of with the Black Friday bathwater.

Because unless you’re going all Kirk Cameron this year (who attempted to save Christmas and ended up in the shitter), you know this to be true. And need I remind you that Jesus HIMSELF GOT GIFTS on his birthday. Shitty gifts, I grant you. But they’re a big part of the story.

My boyfriend tried to pull this no-gifts maneuver this year. To his credit, he is a great lover of experiential gifts, and he’s good at it. Last year he bought us an evening cooking class—and it was great and thoughtful and sweet! But when he floated the idea of us just doing something together this year and calling it our Christmas gift, I said, let’s do something together, because we do things together—AND you’re also getting a gift from me whether you like it or not. I simply will not be robbed of this annual joy. Especially since I’m so goddamned good at it. You can still get touching, personal gifts without spending the earth, for example check out Name Necklace Official.

There was a study published a while back that said that experiential gifts are better, as they appreciate over time, as opposed to “that iPod” which will be out of date in a few years. I think cruises or show tickets or super fancy restaurant dinner as gift are great. But don’t you dare poo-poo the iPod. The year my family and I all got our first generation iPods was one of our historical best. Even if I don’t even know where that thing is anymore.

Granted, I come from a tradition of heavy duty gift exchanges (my childhood was awash in electronic toys, digital alarm clocks, stereos), and my parents admittedly have a habit of going overboard. But it was fun for them, and they were in a position to do it, so there you have it.

But even we tried doing a no-gifts thing. One year, not that long ago, we did a complete Christmas detox and exchanged nada. Except for my mom, who says she gets to do what she wants because she’s the mother. But between the rest of us? We all had bills to pay, and yada yada yada. “We’ll bake cookies! We’ll play games! We’ll have a beer tasting!” Yeah we did that. And you know what? It sucked. It was one of the most boring, least gleeful Christmases ever. It’s like trying to remove cake from a birthday party and instead blowing out candles and pretending it was just as fun. It’s not.

We have since arighted the ship and are back to our giving ways, even if we do keep within a budget so no one goes crazy. You don’t have to go into debt. But Christmas is always coming. So you budget for it.
And lest you think I’m some kind of heathen, I say this: Giving really is more fun. But you need to give something to do it. During my very first year of gainful employment, I pulled up to my parents’ home at the holidays with a Subaru packed to the gills with gifts I paid for with my own money. I was particularly proud of a pair of super cool Old Navy overalls for my sister Kim (it was a phase). Most importantly, it was the year I felt I had arrived as an adult. I could finally bring something to the table, or tree, as it were. That mattered. Still does.

Oh, and the Christmas-is-for-kids thing? Please. I think it’s a very bad idea to forego gift exchanges between adults so that you can drown the kids in so much stuff they can barely open it all before lunch. Because what you’re modeling is, “Christmas is recreation and gifts is all about what you get and what parents provide.” Not true. Stop giving to the people you love on Christmas, and you’re saying, “Meh, we had our fun. Let’s just skip our gifts and throw another Barbie on the funeral pyre.” It also in some small way says, “I’m not worth a gift, and neither are you.” And that is the most anti-holiday sentiment of all. So get your friends some custom bobbleheads or whatever else they like because we are all worth it!

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