Holiday Gift Overload
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Holiday Gift Overload
My daughter is 3 and she had a terrific time seeing family and friends over
the holidays. She is an only grandchild and has many aunts and uncles,
and she ended up with lots and lots of new toys and books.
Does anyone have any tips on how to handle the receiving end of so much
gifting? This might be a temporary issue, as I bet some of our friends and
relatives will quit bringing her gifts as she gets older. But in the meantime,
how can I help her focus on these people as loved ones rather than the
source of presents?
First, she is only 3 and will not notice when you give
some of her things away. If you choose to tell her, it is
a great way to teach her about giving things to other
children that may not be blessed with as much as she has.
Second, it is perfectly fine to asks relatives to give
money for college and/or as few gifts as possible.
Last, since everyone else is giving, you don't need to.
What a blessing to have the problem of overabundance. We
have the only neice and grandchild as well.
hi, I feel the same way and we just started our first christmas, but I think the
relatives want the kid to be overjoyed with the gifts and remember them by
the gift that they gave. I was thinking of doing what you are saying about
making a list of things he needs and handing it to them, but it didnt work
much with the baby shower, they just wanna give something unique, and
mostly it's plastic and flashy. My favorite xmas spent was volunteering to
serve xmas lunch to an elderly group and another to the homeless, and as
the kid grows to bring him along to these things, or giving gifts to the less
fortunate, or even giving old toys to the less fortunate is a good way to stay
grounded. that's what xmas is about isnt it?. it also came to mind that
whenever my mom threw me a party when I was young, we would always
go buy party favors, like little toys and put it in bags to give to guests when
they leave and that is a pretty gesture of giving not just taking, I saw one of
my cousin-in law do that this xmas, she had her kids make crafts and give
to all the guests.
give and take
I just wanted to empathize! I also have a 3 year old and found it kind of intense to receive so
many material gifts for the holidays. One thing we've sometimes done is to suggest ''Hey, do you
want to make a drawing for Auntie X to thank her for the nice _____ she gave you?'' Then we mail
the drawing to the relative. Usually makes the relative feel good and I think it helps the child
to feel they have given something back. My child likes to draw but if yours doesn't, you could do
something else, like taking a little video of the child playing with the toy, and tell the child
''We're going to show Auntie X this video to thank her for sending you that toy.''
I am looking for advice on how to be tactful in addressing
Christmas giving in my family. This year my husband and I had a
baby and I have decided to stay home with her for the time being.
Understandably, finances are tight. My idea for Christmas is to
give a small donation to a charity for each family member (6
total in both of our families). Not only will this be easier on
the wallet, but we believe it is a wonderful way to celebrate the
season of giving. We would like to ask the same from our
families (small donations for my husband and I in lieu of
presents). I'm not sure the idea will go over well with
everyone. I don't want to ask family members to only give
donations to other family members, just my husband and I. How do
we tactfully address this situation without sounding ungrateful,
etc. We are blessed to have wonderful families and don't want to
ruffle any feathers.
Are you ready to give to a charitable organization that someone
really wants? How about if it's a charity that really makes your
skin crawl? Please consider whether this sort of gift giving is
about making you feel good and not your recipient. How about
unique hand made items?
--not a fan of charities
It is not polite to tell people what you'd like them to give
you unless they ask. So you should not tell your relatives
that you'd prefer a charitable donation. Maybe they will ask
what you'd like and then you can tell them.
As for giving donations in lieu of gifts ...
When I have gotten notifications
about charity donations made in my name, I have felt like I was being
preached to. It feels like it's the gifter's thing, and not about me.
I would rather have
something that was picked out for me, even if it is
cheap or no-cost, like a comic book, or a mix tape, or a bag
of cookies. The idea
of giving a gift is that you want to bring some joy to the
person you are giving it to.
I think everyone should give
to charities, and I do myself, especially at this time of year.
But turning that in to a gift to another person is not really
what gift-giving is about. Furthermore, it could be seen as
a self-serving announcement about yourself
to your friends & family. If your family all agree on a
charity, and that this is a good idea,
fine, but otherwise you should put the focus on the person
who will be receiving the gift.
I have a family member who suggested this to us, and it sparked
an interesting debate in our household about what a gift is and
whose perogative it is to choose what the gift entails.......
Though I think its very commendable to want to make a financial
gift to charity in leui of a physical gift, I also think that a
gift is something chosen and given by the gift-giver - and as
such it is not the place of the gift receiver to dictate what
that gift might be.....
I was the receiver of a 'wholesome' gift and that was fine, I
respect the choice of my family member, but I wouldn't want to
have that same family member dictate to me what I might or might
not give to them. Btw - we are not a big gift giving family as a
general rule, so its not like I am hanging out for the big
presents - but finding the perfect little thing that I know will
bring a smile to the face of someone I love gives me great joy!
So sure - go ahead and discuss your feelings with you family and
give what feels right for you, but in return respect the wishes
of your family to maintain their traditions, and allow them the
pleasure of choosing!
a little gift giving can be fun!
Here's what I would recommend: do your donation (you can make a
nice personalized announcement to hand to each relative), plus
give everyone in your family framed pictures of your darling new
baby (frames are cheap at Longs, Ross, etc). Don't try to dictate
what your family should give. Most of the focus will be on your
child anyway--people will be happy and excited to shower the new
little one with presents, so don't rain on their parade.
Gift-giving should not be a tit-for-tat exchange: it is giving
what you can, with love.
How about just telling them what you told us? You wrote it quite
your reason, and even express hope that you won't ruffle feathers. I
that they give donations in YOUR names, however. They may come to that
on their own if you just tell them you don't want gifts.
I honestly think it is rude to tell/ask people what to get for
you. If you really think your family/friends will appreciate a
donation made in their name, then give them that. If they want to
give you a sweater, they can.
I think that if you have a family history of asking each other
what you want, then you can speak up. If not, it comes off as a
little crass telling people what you want for the holidays... and
as far as giving donations in someone else's name or honor, well,
all I can think of is the Human Fund from Seinfeld.
You also could float the idea to family members before the
holidays and see what they think. A good gift idea for those who
have everything, is something homemade and edible: dry soup mix
in a jar with instructions; cookie mix, just add milk, eggs,
water, in a jar; melt down a bar of chocolate, toss in a few
cardamom seeds, let it harden on some wax paper, break apart, and
viola, you're a genius confectioner; the ideas go on and on...
I understand your desire, but man... I sure wouldn't want to be
the recipient of a donation made in my name.
Just my two cents...
While i agree with your thinking and the choice you are making
to donate to charities in lieu of gifts i don't think it's
appropriate for you to request others do the same for you. You
really should never say anything about gifts to you unless
someone asks.it's just really rude otherwise. But go ahead with
the plan you have for other's gifts!
It sounds like you both come from great families so my guess is
that they will be understanding of your decision to simplify the
gift giving. I think if you explain that you are wanting to
donate to charity and also keep things financially doable since
you are staying home, I cannot imagine annoying objecting to
that! I've seen people requesting charity donations for wedding
gifts, baby shower gifts...all sorts of things.
My husband and I both come from very large families (stepparents
and step siblings, etc.) so Christmas was becoming very expensive
We approached one side of the family (who we knew would be open
to it) with the following plan:
Everyone draw one name to buy something special for, and keep it
secret all year. Then you need to only buy ONE gift for ONE
person and you can get something more meaningful.
Everyone also donates 20.00 to a charity that one family member
choses each year (we take turns being the charity choser.) It's
not much per person, but multiplied times all of us, it adds up
to a good amount.
We also came up with the idea that we still buy gifts for the
kids, which are inexpensive, and fun to shop for...and let's face
it, that's who they holiday is mostly for, anyway!
I feel the same way as you - we have a wonderful, generous family
who likes to go over the top. This year we are trying something
new. We are adopting a family for the holidays and each family
is responsible for purchasing the items for designated members of
the ''adopted'' family. We are going to go in on the costs for
food items. Good luck!
I have a Dear Abbey situation and am looking for the proper
response that will minimize hurt feelings. I have a long time
friend of the family who sends gifts to me and my children
nearly every holiday. She will send a big box full of wrapped
items such as markers, stampers, playing cards, candy, stuffed
animals, candles, soaps, etc. It's not that we are ungrateful
for all the wonderful things, it's just that it seems so
excessive. She is frequently in and out of employment, so
sometimes she will call to say that a package will be late
because she doesn't have enough money for shipping (everything
comes UPS).The situation is a bit complicated because she was
in love with my brother who died and has known me and my family
for at least 20 years. Her own mother died, she and her sister
are not on speaking terms, and her sister forbids her two
neices from speaking with her either. So, I know that she
enjoys giving my children huge Easter baskets, etc.for lack of
other family.This past year she blew up at my husband on the
phone, ranting as if we were purposefully being a burden to her
over some delayed package. My husband told her please, that the
kids had enough things and not to worry. I thought the gift
giving would taper down because she just got married. Instead,
we got all the usual plus some really expensive gift cards for
Christmas! Help! My friend is not very emotionally stable and
is on and off medication for manic depression. I don't know the
right time or words (in a letter or on the phone?) to tell her
that we really appreciate all the gifts but that they aren't
necessary. She has a history of flying off the handle and
alienating other friends over much less. Or do I just continue
to accept all the packages? Is it o.k. to just reciprocate with
cards on the holidays and one birthday gift per year? Somehow,
I feel that I must reciprocate with gifts in turn,especially
with such big gift cards. We always send thank you's, with
children drawing pictures, etc. but I really don't want any
more packages. Help!
I am sending a message from the other side -- I am someone who gives
gifts to family members without receiving any in return.
I wondered occasionally if this felt like a burden to my family members
-- it was fun for me to get or make the gifts and send them, but I
didn't want them to feel obliged. It was really about the pleasure I
derived from sending the gifts and thinking they might get a kick out of
some of them. And I live far away, so I wanted to have a way to touch
them. I do not feel sad or resentful that they don't send gifts -- it
is their decision as to whether this is something they can afford or
want to do. But I didn't want them to feel obligation. This Christmas
my brother separated from his wife and he and his young son moved out of
their house. He wrote to tell me that my Christmas gift (a Cal mug...)
was the only wrapped present he received this Christmas. So I was glad
that I kept up the habit.
It sounds as if your friend has a deep-seated need to give in order to
affirm connection. It is unfortunate that she is unstable and develops
resentment about the cost of sending, etc -- I think it is right in that
case to tell her that you don't want her to overextend herself on your
behalf, that you are happy whenever you hear from her, gifts or no. But
I would think about just continuing to accept the gifts and continue to
teach your children to express gratitude. That is your gift to her.
I would suggest you possibly invite your friend over (better face to
face, if possible) and make it clear to your friend in a very loving way
that she does not need to send gifts to your children as they love her
regardless. That the best gift is her time and her attention. She is
probably sending extravagant gifts because she is insecure and wants to
ensure that she will be part of you and your families lives given her
relationship and loss in her own family.
We had that problem ... No amount of polite requesting seemed to help.
We finally intervened by actually opening the packages (when the
children were asleep), then determining which ones to keep. We then
donated the unwanted gifts to charity. This way, more children than just
our own could benefit from the well meaning of a generous gift giver.
embarrasment of riches
Awww. Cute problem -- except for the part about getting angry at your
husband. Sounds like you're one of the few people in the world who can
put up with her. I'm not sure there's a way of telling her to stop.
Can you just donate the gifts, say to a shelter?
Halfway through your message, I started thinking ''her friend sounds
really unstable,'' and then sure enough, a few more sentences, and you
say she's bipolar. My mother is mentally ill so I'm very familiar with a
lot of the attempts you're making to manage your friend -- all the
twists and turns and machinations and wondering if it's better to do it
by phone or letter...I've been there, and I can tell you, it doesn't
work. She'll still find a way to get pissed off at you, and she'll still
find a way to send you extravagant gifts, if that's what she wants to
do. If you want to continue this friendship, I would suggest reading up
on people with bipolar disorder and/or talking about this with a
therapist or a support group, maybe something like a codependents
anonymous. If you're not that invested, I would break all contact and be
glad you don't live in the same area. I'm sorry if that sounds callous,
but from what you've written, you're not going to be able to ''solve''
this by being diplomatic. Good luck.
How sad your friend must be to need to do this, she really wants to be
loved. It sounds like she is trying to fill some void in her life by
showering your family with attention. I'd go so far as to say she needs
some therapy, but perhaps that's too hard to deal with. Is there anyway
you can tell her that you care for her, and maybe not even deal with the
gift issue yet? Also, maybe saying that you feel uncomfortable because
you can't afford to reciprocate? (Don't know if that's true.)
You mention, almost in passing, your friend's manic depressive illness.
There's no cure for that, only medications that can help control it. So
if the diagnosis is correct and she's on and off her meds, then her
illness has a lot to do with her extravagant gifts, not to mention her
relationship with her family. With the bipolar person in my life, when
the illness takes over, it is impossible to have a reciprocal
relationship, and even in the best of times her needs tend to dominate.
In deciding how to respond to your friend and what relationship works
for you, do you feel you have enough information about her illness? It
sounds like you care enough to want to stay in her life. In another
post below, responding to the woman with a ''Husband with mental
illness'' I recommend the NAMI East Bay chapter for information and
Have your children ever received too few
Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanza gifts? If so, what were the
circumstances? Were there any lasting consequences?
Every year, I buy too many Christmas presents for my children. I
overbuy for fear of disappointing them, and because I keep
seesawing back and forth about which kid will feel stinted
compared with the others, and because I perpetually underestimate
the kindness and generosity of friends and relatives. So the
constant in Christmas is excess, followed by a nasty hangover of
moral queasiness and financial stress, not to mention the stuff
itself which instantly mutates into an intractable mess that
devours time and space.
So tell me: if I throw caution to the winds, and buy less, what's
the worst thing that can happen?! Will it?
Sign me: Grinch envy
We do it by focusing on the meaning of the thing. For Chanukah,
it's always been the lights, the food, and the activities at our
synagogue. This year my kid got new shoes as a present. For his
bar mitzvah, it was the tremendous meaning of the thing, his
present was a silver pointer with which to read from the Torah -
and family that came across the country to celebrate with him.
If I were Christian, it would be the decorations, which are so
lovely and fun, and the anticipation of going to midnight mass
or services to hear the wondrous story retold, especially if
staying up that late is unusual. (Sunrise services at Easter
would be a big deal, too.) Wonder, I guess, that's what it would
be about for us. My kid commented the other day that he didn't
understand why people gave all kinds of presents to each other
when it was Jesus' birthday they were supposed to be
celebrating, and Jesus wouldn't have cared about the presents. I
suspect that there is much to the holiday itself whose beauty
and meaning will be uncovered without the stress and frenzy that
is pushed on families.
I'm sure the network will be flooded with responses on this one.
I come from a family where too much is never enough, including
food, presents, drink, etc. My husband's family, on the other
hand, believed in moderation, if not downright aceticism. Once we
married and had a child, these differences raced to the fore.
What I have found, however, is that his family's way is ultimately
much more comfortable, reasonable, and unfraught. We ask our six-
year-old what he wants for Christmas, and he usually comes up with
two or three items. We make sure that one of those comes from us
and one or two from Santa. The rest comes from his grandparents
(only one side; my husband's parents unfortunately passed away),
his aunts and uncles, and the occasional friend. Even this is
more than he can really appreciate. Children (and most people, I
think) quickly become sated and then overwhelmed with gifts. In
your shoes, I would go with the inclination to be very limited and
choosy. Make sure the child gets at least one thing s/he wants
and will treasure (those two things do not necessarily go hand in
hand). Maybe make one or two other smaller purchases. And then
hold yourself back. There will be more than enough presents; I
think its really the ritual and togetherness that makes up the
Hope your holiday was happy!
a former spendthrift
Is there such a thing as too few gifts? The only way to have a
positive impact on the excess we all experience is to actively
and consciously refuse to give in to the pressure of "More is
better". Here are some suggestions. Buy one or two presents
that they really want - no more than that. Teach your children
about being gracious for receiving gifts. Talk to your kids
about excess, and about all the kids who don't get presents.
Then ask them to donate one toy (ideally new and unopened) to
charity. Make your own presents (my favorites are baked goods,
jams, stained glass, and ornaments). Volunteer with your
children to serve food in a soup kitchen, hospital, shelter, or
nursing home. The people who work in these places year round
love to get a break and it feels good to help others.
Rediscover the meaning of the holiday season by visiting your
neighbors (we bring cookies to ours, even ones we rarely talk to
the rest of the year). This is becoming an instution in my
neighborhood - it is really fun.
Good luck and have a happy, wholesome, holiday
Quality not quantity
I have the same problem with excessive gifts. Luckily one of my
children is several years younger than the other (and they are
the same sex), so if I ''overbuy'' for the older child I put it
away for the younger child. I tend to buy books and clothes and
educational toys so usually the difference in storgae time does
not really affect the usefulness of the item. I also shop at used
book stores and second hand toy stores and garage sales
throughout the year for nicer toys that I would never be able to
afford otherwise. I have a large tote that I put things in
throughout the year as I find them starting sometime in the
summer. I try to not buy ''the toy of the year'' or whatever until
the very last thing because kid's change their minds rom August
to December and returning things is more of a pain than buying
them. Also, if a family member wants to give it to them that's
fine and if its not overbudget then that would be the one
''special thing.'' If they send the child a check that's great and
it goes into the bank. If they send the child a present then I
put that under the tree with their name on it.I always have a
couple extra books or something to put an uncle's name or
grandparents name on if they are far away. That way the child has
something tangible to open from Uncle Jack or Aunt Betty Sue. I
put the check in the child's bank account and let the relative
know what ''they'' put under the tree.
This isn't so hard to do with relatives that live far away, but
with many relatives close by who always want to bring a little
something over, its hard to ask for money instead. In that case,
it's helpful if they bring it wrapped and put it under the tree
and I will put away something equivalent for another time.
I also try to limit the total number of gifts per child so that
they are pretty much equal.
Over a period of a couple of three years you will kind of know
who is likely to bring a gift so you can add that to your total
Also, I always ask that my oldest child choose from a few
items I have put away for gifts for other children and for the
''Toys for Tots'' program or similar programs. I hope this helps a
I finally did what I've been saying I would do for years, and
cut way, way back on gift-giving this Hannuka. I bought a few
*small* (not ''big-ticket'') gifts, but not enough for the kids to
open one every night. I didn't even make sure that they got an
equal number of gifts! My kids are 8.5 and 3.5, and the younger
one has few and nonspecific expectations about gifts, while the
older one was old enough for me to talk about there being more
to the holiday and the celebration of it than wallowing in stuff
(besides, with the presents that came from grandparents and aunt
and uncle, she still had quite a decent, if modest, haul). We
talked about other ''gifts'' we could give: the gift of self,
time, willingness to help out, charity, etc., but because of the
squashed time issue this year, I didn't get my act together
enough to follow through on all the good ideas we had come up
with. Bottom line: the kids were fine. The emphasis was on
being together, singing songs, lighting the beautiful menorahs
and appreciating the candles' glow, all of which made it much
better than the greed-fests of my youth. Good luck for next
year--it can be done.
What we do that works really well is buy all those just-in-case
gifts and bring them to all the Christmas parties we go to, but
we keep them in a bag so the kids can't see them! Then if one
child is getting fewer gifts we can run and get one
unobtrusively. (We also bring a few generic adult gifts, in
case those are needed!) After the holidays we usually save them
for birthdays, etc, but you can also return them.
I have a somewhat related question--I have been trying to
reduce materialism related to the holiday, but I found myself
discouraging my children from buying presents and then I felt
like I was squelching their generosity. We do make some gifts,
but my 11 yr old son is not into making presents for his
friends. And they do participate in our name-drawing gift
exchange, but generally they receive much more than they give,
which is fine at their age. They also each used their own money
to make donations this year. I'm not sure how to raise them to
be generous and giving but not super-consumers! Any ideas?
What's wrong with buying less? Maybe just buy one special gift
at Christmas/Holiday? Don't other people give gifts to the
child? And there's always birthdays ... and Valentines,
Halloween and more.
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