Dec. 23 is usually the busiest shopping day of the year, as desperate last-minute shoppers hunt for the seemingly impossible: a mall parking stall and that elusive perfect gift.
Deanna Callsen, an addictions counsellor in Saskatchewan, doesn’t have to worry about any of that. She and her family are going totally gift-free this holiday season.
“My brother and I were just talking last night how stress-free it is, like really stress-free. Even more stress-free than online shopping.”
Canadians plan to spend an average of $1,600 on the holidays this year, according to a recent BMO survey and Consolidated Credit.
“I don’t believe it’s smart to go into debt over Christmas,” Callsen says.
The money she would have spent on gifts will instead go towards a family trip to Hawaii in February. And snacks.
“We buy some good food, and we just spend our time together.”
Aside from more family time, cutting out Christmas gift shopping and wrapping has also left her with way more free time to simply relax.
The shift didn’t happen overnight, though.
The 33-year-old and her three siblings, aged 23 to 35, phased out gift-giving over the last four years or so.
The seed was planted when they were all sitting around trying to recall what gifts they had received over the last few Christmases and from whom. It turned out, nobody really remembered.
“We realized maybe we were buying gifts just for the sake of buying gifts.”
The Callsens are likely not alone in that. Chances are, at one point or another, we’ve all felt the pressure to get something for someone because it’s what’s expected of us.
Then we expect the person to actually like it (or at least convincingly feign happiness).
It can be an awkward situation for everyone involved.
Of course, there are those who love everything about gift-giving and receiving. In the Callsen family, that was the mother.
Her face would always light up when opening presents. So for her sake the family decided to compromise and just do Christmas stockings.
They tried to set a price limit and enforce a rule of including something homemade.
One year the mom made all the kids aprons. But sticking to the rules was a bit of a struggle for her.
“She would try to give you something before Christmas, like, ‘Oh I just saw this and thought of you!’”
Or she’d try to sneakily load up the stockings with pricier gifts, like jewelry.
Since Callsen’s mother passed away in June, the family no longer feels bound to the tradition and has decided to forgo the stockings altogether this year.
Callsen realizes it’s not something that will work for everyone. She believes each family can still do something to bring back the true meaning of Christmas.
“So whether that means not giving gifts at all, or everybody pools their money together and supports a charity that means something to them.
“It can look a lot different than what Christmas looks like now.”