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Putting the brakes on the Christmas train

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Putting the brakes on the Christmas train

By Jane Muller

It may seem hypocritical that a magazine filled with a Santa’s sack worth of gift ideas would also include a feature about a family that has stepped away from abundant gift giving.

The reality is that most of us will be purchasing Christmas or holiday presents. We could all learn to concentrate less on material things and focus more on experiences.

In the feature “Rethinking the Christmas List” several families share their new approach to the holidays. Each of them decided that the flood of gifts, many of which were soon forgotten, needed to subside. Now most of their gifts foster family time or provide opportunities to enjoy a concert or an amusement park in the coming year. It’s encouraging that families are trimming back those Santa lists and readjusting their priorities.

In making these adjustments, they could encounter FOMO, the “fear of missing out” that propels parents to cave in on their commitments. The concern that all of the other kids will be raving about their mountain of gifts while theirs will confess to getting a molehill. It’s important that kids buy into the concept of experience over abundance. Chances are that instilling family values and discussing choices based on those values will provide the confidence for kids to stand by the choices around gift giving.

It can be a tough stance to take, especially if we remember being disappointed at Christmas and don’t want our own kids to experience those feelings. A restrained approach to gift giving would be an easier sell if we all jumped aboard the same train of thought but that sort of consensus is unrealistic.

The engine of consumerism is at full throttle and the marketing of the season of “giving” isn’t going to give up just because some choose to back off. As I write this, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are on the horizon along with Giving Tuesday, a relatively new “day” that has been concocted as an antidote to the shopping frenzy based days. One can only hope that gift buying budgets leave room for the charities that help to reinforce our social safety net and more. Giving Tuesday is a noble effort, although Giving Thursday might actually cause us to examine our priorities.

Coming face-to-face with members of the Salvation Army and their donation kettles is a good reminder that there are many for whom our giving will have a huge impact. Donating gifts and food for the needy in our communities is a worthy tradition in which many families engage. Among the gift guides featured in this issue is one geared to gifts that benefit charities. Check out our charitable giving guide for inspiration as you consider ways to give this season.