Less than a month until Santa comes, and all my family wants to know is what they should buy Elle for Christmas.
The answer I really want to give is, “Nothing.”
Ah-ha! It has been revealed! I have Scrooge-ish inclinations. Deep down, I despise hanging Christmas lights. I don’t care to pick pine needles out of my carpet for the next three months, or search for small, mostly useless items that can fit inside a hung stocking. And no, I don’t really want Santa to bring my daughter any more junk this Christmas.
I stopped giving Christmas gifts years ago, and the decision has been deliciously liberating. No more senseless shopping. No more painful deliberating about what so-and-so, whom I haven’t seen in a year and rarely ever talk to, could want or might actually use this year.
Bucking the consumerist agenda that so insidiously permeates our spending-happy culture has remained my excuse for not purchasing gifts for parents, siblings, etc. If truly necessary, my past given gifts have included teddy bears for orphans in India or a share of a pig for a village in Cambodia. You know, the kind of gifts that make you appear wholly philanthropic, rather than simply cheap or lazy. Coincidentally, purchasing those kinds of gifts require only a few moments on a computer, a credit card, and a printer – my kind of Christmas shopping.
My brazen lack of remorse regarding my mostly self-centered rather than truly altruistic reasons for not giving Christmas gifts (No shopping! No deliberating! No spending!) has taken some heat since I’ve become a parent, though. Denying your child presents on Christmas is akin to withholding candy on Halloween, or dyed eggs on Easter. It’s downright criminal.
And if I were to purchase Elle a goat to be given to an impoverished village in a third world country, my family may very well decide I need therapy. (Those pig and goat gifts always raise a few eyebrows, but I secretly enjoy witnessing the confusion they convey. “So, this pig…is a gift from you… which is a gift from me…to a family in Asia? Um, cool.” Confounding your loved ones with abnormal gifts on Christmas: PRICELESS.)
So instead of telling my family what Elle really needs this Christmas (a yearning to use the potty? A desire to share? ) I must, to keep up proper motherly appearances, tell them she needs things. Somewhat practical things like books and crayons and new pajamas. Because telling them not to buy her anything would mean we would end up with a baby doll stroller, a miniature shopping cart, a plastic tea set, a fake pet hamster, or any number of truly unnecessary items that will only clutter my house and make me ever more frustrated about the already massive mound of toys my daughter never plays with.
(As I write, Elle is entertaining herself with three folded paper napkins and the plastic plate from which she just ate oranges. Proof that toddlers really don’t need much to be happy.)
The thing is, what is Christmas without Santa Claus, stockings, and pretty boxes wrapped beneath the tree? Aside, of course, from spending time with family, not punching a time clock, and celebrating the birth of Jesus (if you’re so inclined).
At not quite two years old, Elle is still somewhat clueless about Santa Claus and pretty wrapped presents; Christmas, to her, is all about the sparkling lights strung like twinkle, twinkle little stars on trees and houses around town. I selfishly wish it could remain that way, that in the years to come my daughter will continue to associate Christmas with pretty twinkling lights, instead of pot-bellied men squeezing down chimneys to deliver mounds of the season’s hottest toys. Toys that require parents to stand in line outside of big box stores at five in the morning.
I realize, however, that I – like any parent – will ultimately cave. I will want my daughter to have the Christmas she hopes for; and if that means standing in line outside of a big box store at five in the morning to buy a fake pet hamster, well… we’ll see about that.
This Christmas, it will give my family members immense joy to watch Elle and her cousins delight in the Christmas morning gift unwrapping frenzy; perhaps it is this, the gratification of giving, that lies at the heart of why we buy gifts at Christmas. So despite my intentions to create a family holiday tradition that doesn’t wholly revolve around shopping or spending money, I have to admit – I have already caved. I have purchased a baby doll, complete with bib and bottle and baby bed, for Elle this Christmas. And since I don’t want to be that lame aunt who never has gifts for her niece and nephews on Christmas, I’ve begged my sister-in-law to tell me what to buy her kids.
I bet she, too, secretly wants to tell me, “Nothing.”