Holiday Gifts in a Post-Santa Family

Kait Leonard

There are no longer any children in my immediate family. No bouncing babes to scream as they sit on some creepy Santa’s knee. No toddlers pulling over the adorned tree, as they grab at plastic candy canes. No pouting because the younger siblings are getting all the attention. Life transitions can be sad. This one, I’m okay with.

The absence of wee ones does raise some interesting challenges, especially pertaining to gift giving. Though Santa is no longer part of the equation, we continue to trade presents. What would Christmas be without them? At this point, however, we’re all working adults. This means if there’s something we want, we buy it. For a while, that meant everyone got food presents. You can’t have too many chocolate-covered strawberries or cake pops, right? Then came the days of vegan, gluten free, and elimination diets. This left us with little choice but to embrace gift cards. 

To avoid any awkward feelings, we settled on a standard $50 per gift. At first, we purchased cards from stores specific to the shopping preferences of the intended receiver. I chose somewhere with bath products for my daughter and another with video games for my son-in-law. As these options became predictable, it seemed more sensible to get cards from a vendor that sold everything. Why not let people have more choices? So, Christmas became a time of trading equal-value Amazon cards.

At one point, someone made the joke that we could just keep our own cards. It would be the same. Around then, Christmas threatened to die.

I don’t mean to imply that for us the holiday amounted to nothing more than bags full of booty. But when St. Nick departed, so did the letter writing, cookie baking, and Christmas Eve stealth that comes with him. And since it’s only my daughter, her husband, and me, it’s kind of silly to cook the traditional dinner (if that were even possible given our varied dietary requirements). And while we never miss midnight Mass, we aren’t really religious. So, losing the presents under the tree (we still have trees) is quite significant.

Being the clever people we are, we finally came up with the idea of exchanging experiences rather than items. Each person would get a voucher good for one activity of her or his choosing. The others would make that event happen. We would buy tickets and make reservations. Then we would all happily accompany each other to the desired event, unless of course, the recipient requested a solo activity. That was fair, too. We said so, and we were inventing this as we went.

I asked for an afternoon at a contemporary art museum. Preparations were made and the day arrived. Wandering through every nook of the installation, I was filled with awe. My companions, not so much. I would turn to point out some example of creative genius. They would make valiant attempts to refocus their eyes. This would be followed by speechless nodding, and we would move on. They tried.

I wasn’t much better as I attempted to bob my head to the heavy metal originals of “unsigned” local musicians who played for fans gathered in a downtown loft. And I had to totally opt out of the scuba diving. I have an inner ear problem. It’s not my fault.

So here we are again. Christmas is just around the corner. There are still no little kids, and we’re still okay with that. But after a long and heartfelt family meeting, we’ve agreed that we’re not ready to accept Scrooge status, so presents will be bought.

With the best of Christmas spirit, I’ve been window shopping, meaning I’ve been frantically searching the internet. I have to say, I’m quite impressed with the festive designs they’re now printing on those Amazon eCards.

Surfing Santa or Snowman Drinking a Mai Tai on the Beach?


Kait Leonard

Kait Leonard, Ph.D., holds graduate degrees in literature and psychology. She shares her home with five parrots and her American bulldog, Seeger. Her writing interests include psychology, holistic wellness for both people and animals, and whatever human interest topics cross her path.

1 Comment
  1. Kait Leonard’s articles are always thought-provoking, and this one was no exception. I don’t want to give up on the idea of gift-giving, but she’s right, if there’s something I want, I usually just buy it. And that means when someone asks me what I want, I have a hard time coming up with a useful suggestion. A related problem is the proliferation of stuff in my life. I already have too much stuff. I liked her family’s idea of exchanging experiences, and I would not have thought of the pitfalls she described although that’s a downside that might be managed. However, that idea prompted another possibility. How about exchanging a memory as a gift? You would be giving the gift of your time to someone you love, and they would learn something about you or your past that they would not have otherwise known. Thanks for another great article, Kait.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.