Dec 24, 2007

teensy lean action taken for gift giving

Well, it's Christmas Eve and time for the frenzy of shopping to stop and the frenzy of giving and receiving gifts to start. Now that we're both retired, Mike and I agreed we'd cut down on the number of gifts we buy each other, and we made charitable donations in the names of many of the adults on our gift list. We're at the time of our lives when we really don't need more stuff. Our son and daughter-in-law are in Beijing today, part of their four-month study visit to China. We gave them some tiny inexpensive things to open today, but sending anything is too expensive.

We bought fewer gifts for the younger nieces and nephews, but they're not likely to notice at the family party. Usually there is chaos and none of them know who gave them what, frustrating the moms trying to teach them to make proper thank-yous.

However, last night I noticed that Mike had quite a few more gifts under the tree for me than I had for him. I pondered where I could go to shop without getting an anxiety attack, and looked in a few flyers for ideas. (Mike's report is that Target's throughput at the checkouts was excellent, and Macy's had plenty of pleasant salespeople available on Tuesday.)

We are the kind of people who live surrounded by too much inventory. Mike has full-pantry syndrome from having grown up in a family with eight kids and limited money for groceries. We probably have some things we brought with us when we moved into this house 13 years ago, although once we went through and threw out anything that was too old to have a bar code. I know there are piles of unopened dress shirts in his closet.

So it came to me -- there must be some nice food gifts around that he'd forgotten about. Hmm... let's take a look. Yes, there are several bottles of premium scotch in the liquor cabinet from some buying sprees at Merchant of Vino and Sam's Wines. Ahh -- how about a nice bottle of Lagavullan. On to the pantry. Way back on the shelf with all the condiments. Some Chesapeake Bay hot sauce? No, he'd know we haven't been there for years. The date on the label is 2000. Here we go -- a pretty jar of lavender honey from Lulu's in San Francisco. I can't use the dress shirts since he doesn't wear them anymore; that would give away the game.

Now parity is more or less established and I made a couple of lean decisions as well. This could be kind of fun as a family challenge. You could have piles of forgotten toys, baseballs, or boxes of macaroni to open on Christmas Day and not add to waste at all.

I've heard of people who "re-gift." We all have the gifts we've put aside over the years because they are just not things we use or like. There's some stigma to sneakily passing an old gift off as a new one, especially embarrassing if it goes to the original giver, but if it was all in fun, why not? And kids under the age of four or five usually have lots of things they've forgotten they own, because they've been showered with birthday and holiday gifts. You could probably get away with recycling some of those things too.

I'm not good at keeping secrets so I'll probably let him know what I did. But didn't your mother always tell you, "It's the thought that counts."

One more thing - Our western Christian culture overwhelms all others so that Christmas is way more visible than the recent Eid, the month of the Hajj, Hanukkah, Buddhist, Hindu, and various midwinter festivals of other religions. The timing of Christmas is actually overlaid on old pagan winter festivals. There are agnostics and non-observers who don't mind having fun on December 25. And there are atheists who are annoyed by the religious aspects.

So I'll acknowledge the fact that our western European attitudes can betray a cultural arrogance, and send my best wishes to all people of any or no faith for a day of peace and hope. Just because.

1 comment:

Kevin said...

Nice post Karen. My wife and I have been reducing the number of gifts we get each other, and others, each year for several years. This year, in fact, each member of our extended family each bought ourselves something and "hid" it, telling someone else where it is. Pretty much guarantees we get what we want, perhaps at the small cost of less surprise. The only person that complains is my mother in-law who believes it detracts too much from the "mystery of Christmas."

Most readers of your blog are probably at the point where they simply buy themselves whatever they need when they need it, so Christmas simply creates excess inventory. Many of us are like you in that we're also trying to reduce existing inventory. I especially like your concept of throwing out anything too old to have a bar code!

We're fortunate, and we should help the less fortunate. Christmas would then have more real meaning for both parties.

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