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The Joy Of "No-Gift" Holidays

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  • Tip Bones

When I opened the package I knew something had to be done. The quilted satin robe was lovely, but in my thermostat-controlled apartment, it would be much to warm and I knew my daughter could ill afford such an extravagance.

I was at a stage in life where I was actively divesting myself of material possessions so I could live in smaller space. I deeply appreciated her generosity with this gift which I knew was intended to help make my transition into widowhood a little easier, but it troubled me.

The robe lay in its box on a shelf for several months before I mustered the courage to propose that I return it to her so she could use it is her cold house, and that we start new approach to gift giving in our family.

I grew up during the depression when gifts were hand crafted or were merely little acts of thoughtfulness. Nobody had money for unnecessary things so great care was given to gift decisions.

My husband was reared in a large moderately affluent German family that traditionally gave a voluminous quantity of gifts. As we established our own family traditions we blended these two concepts into a pattern that was acceptable while our three children were young, but which grew beyond comfort as they reached teenage.

The lure of charge cards fanned by my husband's insatiable desire to be sure our children received lots of gifts left us a financial wreck after every holiday. I could see the same thing happening to our children in their desire to show their love and concern for me.

It had to stop.

Messing with gift giving can be risky business, but if done right, small acts of your thoughtfulness - offered at random throughout the year - can produce happy memories and convey love for each other just as readily as expected gift giving.

It is difficult to rise up and decry traditions and symbols that have become national customs, but let's face it, Mother's Day, Valentine's Day, Secretary's Day and many others are manufactured holidays created by greeting card moguls and covens of florist.

If we choose, we can collectively take a stand and refuse to participate in the buying frenzy for Christmas and other holidays that is so skillfully whipped up by catalog, television and local store advertising.

I proposed, and all other members of our family enthusiastically agreed - to stop giving gifts at traditional gift giving holidays. This simple decision immediately released our entire family from financial strain and futile attempts to select appropriate gifts.

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