Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Different Christmas

This year for Christmas, my siblings and I decided to do things a bit differently. (You know, Teh Economy, and all.)

We are drawing names as per usual (11 people in total), but instead of trolling the aisles of every big box store around, we made some new "rules".

Rule 1: Gift must be handmade (not necessarily by you, just handmade by someone)


Rule 2: Gift must be second hand

This is different than a "White Elephant Christmas" (though we've done that before too- with the larger, extended-extended family gift exchanges- and it's quite fun) in that the gift should not be junk or joke-worthy. The gift should be something thoughtful, useful, and nice, just like if you were going to Target to buy a gift, only NOT purchased at Target.

(And now I've just defined handmade/2nd hand for you! You are welcome!)

The idea was spawned when I spent several shopping trips scanning the shelves of various stores, looking for a birthday gift for my 1 year old nephew. Nothing seemed right. It was either more plastic that he didn't need, too old for him, or too expensive.

Then Marin and I were making our weekly(ish) stop at the local thrift store when she spotted this vintage ride on horse with wheels. Yes, it was plastic. But it was from the 70's and seemed somehow familiar to me, though I don't think we owned one when I was a child. And it was $2.

Sheepishly, I bought it for him. It did feel weird to give a 2nd hand gift, but it was simply the best-suited gift I had found. I was not sure how my SIL (my brother's wife) would respond.

As it turns out, SIL loved it- I didn't know this before but she too loves the vintage look. AND, it's THE toy he plays with the most. It's the perfect size for him to haul a leg over, and as a not-yet-walker, he's delighted with the mobility. Did I mention that it was $2?

Awww, I know. What a cute little 2nd hand success story, huh? What I am learning, though, is that nearly EVERYTHING I want to buy at Target can be purchased 2nd hand for SO MUCH LESS. (I'm quite sure that a modern version of that ride-on toy would be priced $20-30 new.)

The other issue that I think is worth mentioning is: what can you REALLY buy someone at Target/Kohls/wherever that they really will be delighted with? Let's assume that the budget for each person is $20-30... there are very few times when I experience joy in purchasing for someone (adults especially) on my Christmas list. I mean, they either already have it, or I'm not sure if they have it, or I'm not sure which color would be best, or I'm not sure at ALL what to get. Or I am working off a list that they have made, which is lacking in the magic and surprise of the Christmas spirit, ya know?

Often I just ending buying SOMETHING.

Some THING- a thing that was usually not a thoughtful gift. A overly-packaged item that was on some "gift" endcap somewhere... And that person spends $20-30 on me, on a similar thing found on a different (yet eerily alike) gift endcap somewhere else.

(And since my family would draw 5 names, I would be set back $125-150 for my sibling gift exchange alone.)

(In fact, the last couple of years, my sister and my husband have rigged the name draw so that they have each other's names. Then, they would each buy their OWN gift, wrap it, label it from the other person, and put it under the tree. They are shameless cheaters. But also, they both got something they really wanted, and the sentiment was- nearly- the same.)

I'll be the first to admit to being torn between doing away with the whole gift exchange all together, and LOVING the gift exchange. I hate how pointless it all seems! I love getting presents!

I'm not sure how these "new rules" are going to go, but I hope that it helps put some of the joy and magic back into our Christmas. My kids are already planning what they are going to make for their recipients (a butterfly house! a melting bead heart! a carved pumpkin!), and if nothing else, our gift exchange will definitely be interesting this year.

Hopefully I'll be back here, waxing poetic about our "lovely homemade/2nd hand Christmas", and it will be all tiny elf kisses and reindeer that look like puffy pink unicorns.

And if all else fails, at least we will all have fatter wallets at the end of this Christmas season.


d e v a n said...

I think that's a great idea!! Etsy is great for homemade stuff. I like to make Christmas goodies for friends, it's heartfelt and yet also inexpensive. :)

Sunny said...

Owwwwwww!!! GREAT IDEA!!!!

Swistle said...

I love the idea of making gift-buying more like a game. Does it have to be handmade AND secondhand, or is it handmade OR secondhand? The latter seems like fun; the former makes me start hyperventilating.

Kelsey said...

It seems good that it can be handmade but doesn't have to be handmade by YOU. When I was nine or ten I "carved" my parents names in pieces of scrap wood and made my grandfather varnish them for me and call them "plaques" and was SO PROUD to give them as gifts. So I guess what I'm saying is you probably wouldn't want a gift handmade by me, but I could totally rock the second hand thing or the handmade by someone else bit.

desperate housewife said...

I. Love. It. I am stealing this idea for realsies: my extended family has been trying for months to come up with an idea for a fun, still useful (as opposed to white elephant) gift exchange that will be easier on everyone's finances and also less wasteful. Like you mentioned, we all end up giving everyone the same generic endcap stuff. Fleece pajamas and fuzzy socks for everyone!

clueless but hopeful mama said...

Oh I love this too. It seems everyone is in the same boat. How to enjoy the fun of presents while keeping ourselves out of the poorhouse (and our gift recipients out of the Land of More Crap).

Last year my side of the family refused something like this (because my crazy sister in law buys all her xmas stuff in MAY or some such nonsense and LIVES for shopping for CRAP and refused to do it.) but my in-law family decided to pool some money to donate to a charity we chose together and then gave each other only "stocking stuffers". Problem was, we all had different ideas of what constituted stocking stuffers! I like your idea way better!

Marie Green said...

Swistle- it can be either/or! Not both! That would be HARD!

Amy said...

I LOVE that you don't have to have hand made the gift yourself, but that just someone, anyone has to have hand made it. and I'm with Devan... that's the way to go.