Written by: Alexandra Lotzgeselle
I will start this post by shamelessly saying I, like any other female, love getting gifts. Who doesn’t, right? My husband and I started dating in February of 2010, so by the time Christmas rolled around, we had been together long enough to assume we would get each other gifts. This was not a brand new relationship where you can kind of pretend the first big holiday doesn’t really carry an importance and ignore its implications (in this case, gift-giving). We are both somewhat difficult to shop for. I am incredibly indecisive and even when I do know what I want, I tend to refrain from saying it. My husband never really wants anything so I basically just had to get him things I wanted him to have. We both went out and ended up spending way too much money for things neither of us really needed. I can’t even truly remember what he got me…a watch, maybe? I got him some cologne, golf balls, some clothes and other nick-knacks. To put it harshly, we both wasted a great deal of time and money.
I spent some time thinking about it and came to a few conclusions: when you expect someone (a man, in particular) to read your mind and get you some incredibly thoughtful and perfect gift, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment and unfairly setting them up for failure. Also, if there is something material you really want, what is the value in just having someone else buy it for you? Does that make you love them more? Does it make you feel better about it than you would if you just bought it yourself? It seemed that the whole concept of forced gift giving placed on us by holidays that, at their root, have nothing to do with gifts, does more harm than good. So, after Christmas and before either of our birthdays in the spring, I mentioned to my husband, then boyfriend, that I didn’t think we should get each other gifts, and that a card on birthdays and romantically-themed holidays would suffice. He happily accepted my suggestion as any man would! To this day I am still SO glad we decided not to do gifts! It would just be us telling the other person what to buy us when, quite frankly, we just buy whatever we want for ourselves throughout the year anyway. Neither of us have ridiculously expensive tastes, so it’s not as if we are racking up credit card debt all year round, but we do not wait until Christmas or a birthday to hope for something we really want.
This eliminates a huge amount of stress and saves us time and effort that can be devoted to all the other people on our lists, and weeds out one more deterrent in focusing on the true meaning of a holiday. For birthdays or anniversary’s we grab a good dinner or do something nice and special together, but there is never an awkward “Here’s the gift you told me you wanted” or “I hope this gift means enough to prove my love” moment. The cards we get each other with our true feelings mean more than any material possession could.
Here’s the one thing I left out, and what I believe is the perfect alternative for spousal gift-giving around the holidays: the first year we were together and every year since, we have always picked out an ornament for each other that reflects our past year together. Sometimes it is more meaningful, like a globe to reflect our European travels or a couple in a wedding dress and a suit to celebrate our wedding. Sometimes it’s just fun like a soccer player relating to our horrible decision to play co-ed indoor soccer one year. Sometimes we do something to poke fun, like the year I got my husband a hot-air balloon ornament to play with the fact that he surprised me with a hot-air balloon ride he got off groupon and ended up returning and not replacing. Each ornament stands for a particular memory- some more significant than others, but all memories we want to make sure not to let go of. Every Christmas when I hang the globe ornament on the tree I get to relive the amazing memories we created traveling. Every time I look at the hot-air balloon, I laugh thinking about how my husband intended to do something really sweet, but read the reviews about how women said their heads felt like they were on fire, and he knows how much I hate being hot, and therefore decided to just return the certificate (which actually ended up being even sweeter and more thoughtful, because I REALLY do hate being hot and really do love my hair).
Every ornament has a story and comes with an emotional connection. It’s relatively easy to get- there’s no need to run out on black Friday, or drop hints for months about what you really want. Giving an ornament to each other is just a nice way to say, “Here’s a memory that meant a lot to me this year, and that I never want to let go of”. Maybe we’re just cheap and lazy, but I feel it takes out the material clout that muddles up the holidays, and adds a much needed dose of sentiment and true thoughtfulness that tends to go missing around this time of year!