Getting and giving gifts is part of the Holiday season, but should it be what Christmas is really about?

Every year I’m met with the conundrum of what to ask for for Christmas. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love receiving gifts. Big, small, silly or heartfelt, there is something incredibly touching knowing that someone took time out of their day, thought of me and decided that a particular item would bring me joy. This aspect of authenticity is why I find the act of gift giving (and receiving) more important than the gift itself.

Every year around the holidays though, I feel that we seem to forget that it’s not the presents that are the most important part of Christmas. The holidays are plagued with hours of wracking my brain for what to buy friends and family, not because I want to, but rather because there is an expectation. I really enjoy thinking about what would be a good gift for someone, but the enjoyment is wiped away once the element of obligation comes into the mix.

Christmas and birthdays are holidays that hold that level of obligation.

I should probably mention that my birthday is 2 days before Christmas, and the level of gift obligation felt by all becomes painfully apparent when a month before my birthday I start receiving messages asking what I want for both celebrations. Unfortunately “if you have to think that hard about what to get me, please don’t get me anything” is not a socially acceptable response (although I feel this should be the benchmark for gift giving), I’m forced to take time to brainstorm gifts, this time for myself. Sidenote: why is it not acceptable to ask for money?

I don’t think we should be buying gifts “just because it’s Christmas” or “just because it’s someone’s birthday.” This year, the messages came per usual.  I thought long and hard and came to the realisation that I don’t need anything or even really want anything (ok I lied, I totally want a Chanel bag but that’s not something I’m comfortable asking for as a gift…you get the point.) The act of having to choose what someone will gift to me completely takes away any authenticity that is behind the generous act of gift giving. To be honest, I’m happy with a simple card or a few flowers. Hell, I would honestly love a pair of socks.

This year we’ve decided we aren’t going to do gifts, and until that was decided, I felt the pressure start to build. When I floated the idea of making a charitable donation in the name of a few family members I was met with a “you and your funny ideas Iris.”

The point is actually quite simple, there should be no obligation to give a gift to someone during the holiday season. YOU are the gift, spending time together is the gift, unwrapping something should be an added bonus, not a requirement. We as a society seem to have forgotten that. I know many families struggle during the holidays because they feel the pressure of society, social media and family members to make sure it’s a “good Christmas” What happened to spending time with one another? Making a heartfelt batch of cookies? Framing a picture? Knitting a scarf?

Now more than ever, spending time with those we love should truly be at  the centre of everyone’s holiday celebrations. If you’re in a position to be able to give, think about making a donation in the name of someone close to you. You’ll both get a warm and fuzzy feeling and you’ll truly be gifting something that is needed. And if you already have a thoughtful gift in mind for that special someone, you can get that too, just please don’t feel that you’re ruining Christmas if you don’t spend an entire paycheck on things nobody actually needs.