Christmas - The Holiday of "Stuff"

Last year after Christmas my husband drove a truckload of garbage to the dump. This year, we have a strict no gifts policy. Our kids need to understand that the experience and the time with family is their present.
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Last year after the holidays my husband and I decided we need to change our holiday focus and do something drastic. I call last year the "garbage holiday." I come from a large family (I have 3 sisters and one brother) and some very close cousins and aunts that we typically spend Christmas with. These days, now that my siblings and cousins all have kids, we have a ridiculously large group of immediate family members trying to give gifts during the holidays. Last year after the holiday at our house my husband drove a truck (yes a truck) load of garbage to the dump. Thank goodness a lot of it was able to be recycled, but nonetheless it was GARBAGE - wrapping paper, boxes, bags, packaging, etc. Really it was OBSCENE.

The other part of it that was obscene was the WASTE. More than half the gifts our kids got were already broken, lost, or forgotten by the time New Years arrived. Our house became strewn with small plastic toys. The boys (age 5 months and 2.5 last Christmas) didn't even want to play with anything and were overwhelmed by the quantity. Seth Godin comments on the waste during the holidays as manifested by the popularity of holiday gift cards. Shocking to read that $8 BILLION (yes BILLION) goes to waste in never claimed $$ or fees to the companies that issue the cards. Think of what we could accomplish as a country if all that money was donated to a cause? Can you even imagine?

This year we are traveling to Mexico with our kids to visit family. We have a strict no gifts policy. We feel like our kids need to understand that the experience and the time with family is their present. I mean really, how many kids get to spend Christmas on the beach? Isn't that a better present than anything that we can buy them? I think we might also institute a family tradition of donating money to a cause we all believe in. This day and age, with the worry of global warming, and the worry that our children won't get to experience some of the natural things that we have taken for granted, I think it is more important than ever to rethink what the holidays mean to you and your family. And yes I know, flying to Mexico does nothing to reduce our carbon footprint. But I think the experience of being with family in a country that is part of mine and my children's heritage is worth it.

Have you thought about the holidays and what it really means to you and your family? Or have the holidays become this terrible nightmare of rushing around trying to buy things to please everyone?