Beyond Blame

Freeing yourself from toxic emotional bullsh*t

How to Simplify Gift-Giving

Why I abandoned adult-to-adult gift-giving. Read More

I disagree

I think it IS possible to change long-standing traditions in families. I've done it.

The key is to bring the issue up well in advance. Start talking about it in the summer. Say, "You know, I love how we all get together for Christmas and enjoy a meal together and sing carols, but I'm not sure we're going to be able to swing gifts for everyone this year. It gets really expensive. What do you guys think about drawing names for christmas this year?"

I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by the reaction of my family when I said something like this (my husband was unemployed at the time, so I guess that made it easier).

Other people chimed in and said, "Yes! Me too!"

We drew names for a few years, then stopped exchanging gifts at all, except for the kids. It's a huge relief for everyone.

Sometimes, it just takes one person to speak up to give other people permission to speak up too! Of course, change in a family can be really hard and it's important to give everyone time to adjust...but maybe a conversation this year could happen to make a change for NEXT christmas? It's worth a shot!

Similar strategy

My family tried drawing names and even later many of us wanted to stop exchanging gifts with the adults and only buy for the children in our extended family. My sister who doesn't have children was the only one who wasn't cool with this and will not respect our wishes not to be given gifts. The thing is she is a rampant regifter, even going as far as gifting us with her cast off dishes. This actually was a relief as now I feel justified in not exchanging gifts with her. I will just thank her for the cast offs, pretending not to know that they are cast offs and continue not to purchase a gift for her. She will either get it or not but I feel better not being manipulated.

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Carl Alasko, Ph.D. is the author of Beyond Blame (Tarcher Penguin), and like his first book Emotional Bullshit, it has been published in five languages.

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