Not every Christmas celebration involves gift exchanges. In fact, you might find that a giftless Christmas ends up being a more meaningful way to spend time with your family than one where you exchange costly gifts. Particularly in an economic depression, when people are using all their money for basic survival, it may become advisable to celebrate Christmas without gifts, while still celebrating the deeper values of Christmas.
1. Discuss the matter with your family. Decide as a group to have a giftless Christmas in which only affection and food, not material things, is exchanged. Make sure your family understands that a Christmas without gifts doesn’t mean they have nothing to look forward to. There will be plenty of other events and projects equally as fun as gifts.
2. Inform your relatives and friends that you are “going giftless” this year. Telling family members that you are not exchanging gifts helps prevent your ending up with a lot of presents that make you feel compelled to reciprocate.
3. Get the whole family involved in planning and preparing the food for your family Christmas. Why not bake some new special cookies and fruitcake and pound cake and other treats this year? Take special requests and do something unusual to give your family something new to look forward to.
4. Put a home-made nativity scene under the Christmas tree, or your kids’ artwork, or some other decorations. The point is to avoid making the area under the tree look empty, reminding your kids of what’s missing in this family Christmas.
5. Plan activities that can substitute for opening gifts. Consider the spirit of Christmas and the Christmas story of the baby Jesus for your inspiration as you plan your celebration. The idea is to get the whole family mobilized and looking forward to an activity they love on Christmas as much as they would have looked forward to gifts.
6. Plan a Christmas game that everyone can get involved in, and give out inexpensive prizes, gag prizes or food prizes (see the Resources below for ideas). Prizes are a great substitute for presents.
7. Throw a white elephant gift exchange. A white elephant gift exchange is not the same as giving gifts! A tradition at Christmas work parties, a white elephant exchange can also be a hilarious game at home. And it can fill up the empty area under your Christmas tree. See in Resources: How to Do a White Elephant Gift Exchange.
8. Plan a photo auction. Have all your relatives and friends bring in extra photos on Christmas Eve that everyone can “bid” on using Christmas objects and food such as gingerbread cookies, candy, Christmas streamers, ornaments, etc. At the end, let everyone exchange photos as they like so everybody ends up with some photos. This is a great way to celebrate your family memories and creates both memories to take home and a memorable and hilarious event.
9. Plan a family Christmas concert or a play for the family to put on, Brady Bunch or Partridge Family style! Celebrate with a family concert and show off everyone’s talents. A Christmas without gifts does not have to be a Christmas without entertainment!
10. Work together on a creative project like a piece of art or a craft that the whole family can contribute to. Relate it to Christmas in some way.
11. Celebrate Christmas Eve without gifts with your family on December 24.
12. Take digital photos of the Christmas celebration with a digital camera. Download the pictures and place them in an online album that all your relatives and friends can view.
13. Celebrate Christmas Day by playing games and creating beautiful memories with your family. Remind yourself of what Christmas is all about and remember what is most important to you. You’ll find it surprisingly meaningful when you celebrate Christmas without gifts.