My Gifts-Free Christmas in Mexico 2007

I guess we all know that Christmas gifts create suspense and fun at Christmas time, but I don’t think we see gifts as entirely a good thing. We tend to get frustrated with the way they seem to take over Christmas; the way they seem to create such a focus on being materialistic. First, you have to get out to purchase the gifts. This can take hours – – days really. Then you have to wrap them. Timing is important because you’ve got to purchase and wrap some gifts for loved ones far away in order to mail them off in time. You spend time standing in line waiting to spend even more money on postage! Then there are those people that you either want to or have to give a gift, but can’t for the life of you figure out what to give them.

Admit it. You’ve probably dreamed of a gift-less Christmas. This dream lasts a few minutes until you think about how people might take it wrong if you suddenly cease and desist. How might you feel when others give you gifts and you lamely explain, “I wanted to try a non-materialistic Christmas this year so I have nothing for you… but thanks for the loot.” To solve that problem you could send out a letter in advance announcing your intent. Maybe you could suggest donations to a particular charity in your honor… No. That ends up being even more materialistic because it implies an obligation that is usually left completely unspoken in our culture. It’s about here that most of us give up and get back to making our lists and checking them twice.

Well, We’ve done a number of gift-free Christmases now that we live in Mexico and I can tell you what it’s like not to give gifts at Christmas. It’s boring. On Christmas Eve there is no suspense. On Christmas morning there is nothing to do except eat breakfast. There aren’t any new toys to play with all day. In the days leading up to Christmas there’s no sneaking around and hiding things. There’s no wrapping gifts, carefully sticking tape down. There’s no curling of ribbon and no writing of gift labels. Christmas feels like Independence Day or Saint Patrick’s day or Labor Day.

This year I thought it through again. First of all, Christmas is supposed to be a spiritual celebration. Second of all, our son isn’t even two yet. What does he know? He’s already got so many toys we can’t stack them all up on his shelf to clean the floor. Not to mention that money is tight and consumer goods expensive in Mexico. I don’t need anything. My husband doesn’t need anything. Besides, if we got a gift we don’t have any place to put it. Our closet-less house is already driving us nuts and we are continuously trying to find things to get rid of to create more room. So, I just didn’t do gifts. My husband, who grew up without gifts of any kind (it wasn’t his religion, it was poverty), didn’t even notice. In fact, gift exchanges drive him more than nuts because he has no practice at giving and receiving gifts and he either feels inadequate or unworthy or both.

Still, what was one of the most fun moments for us after all? The moment when I found the toy that my mom had sent down with me after Thanksgiving to give to my son for Christmas. I had stashed it away to save for Christmas then forgotten about it. We all played with it for hours and had a lot of fun. He’d already played with it at Thanksgiving, but he wasn’t complaining. He didn’t miss the wrapping paper because he’s never seen a wrapped gift in his life. He just liked the newness and having us play with him. We also enjoyed the few small things sent down by my aunts.

Living in Mexico is helping me to appreciate my materialistic Christmas traditions after all.

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