Monday, December 4, 2017

Our Christmas Tradition Was Inspired By Robert Fulghum

One of my favorite authors is Robert Fulghum. If you're not familiar with him, this might jostle an "ah huh" moment. He wrote the book, 'All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.' In a nutshell, Robert Fulghum simplifies everyday life. Eventually, I'd love to have his entire collection of books. So far, I have one. It's the 'From Beginning to End: The Rituals of Our Lives' book. I purchased it prior to our wedding in 2012 because I wanted to read a chapter to Lisa about weddings. There was a reason for that.

In this particular chapter, he made reference to a couple who wanted a wedding where everyone mingled and participated. To better explain this, think about your typical wedding. Friends and family arrive and take their seats. There's a great divide between friends and family of partner A and partner B. No one really knows each other. Then, people sit and watch the ceremony as if they're watching a play. Then, the guests are whisked off to the reception area while photos are being taken. The married couple makes an entrance. Blah. Blah. Blah.

This was everything the married couple he described in the chapter didn't want. They wanted the guests to mingle before the ceremony. They didn't want people to be separated. They wanted people to surround them during the ceremony. They wanted to food served to be symbolic. They wanted to address the "land mines" before the wedding. Etc...

That's exactly how Lisa and I planned our wedding. It was phenomenal. 

In that particular book, there's another chapter addressing the Christmas season. Robert Fulghum makes another reference to a couple who wanted to gravitate away from the traditional stress and hustle and bustle of the holiday season. The focus was on Christmas gifts.

Let's face it, the Christmas season is the biggest shopping season of the year. We're expected to buy gifts for a lengthy list of people. Why? Because it's Christmas. That's what we're supposed to do. 

The couple referenced in the book decided to go a different route. They let friends and family know that they would not be buying gifts for anyone during the Christmas season. Instead, they would send gifts throughout the year as needed or simply as "just because gifts..." In return, they did not expect anyone to buy them gifts during the Christmas season.

At first glance, that may sound odd or as if they're teetering on the line of being a Christmas Scrooge. But, when you think about it, their approach makes sense.

I'll use Lisa and me as an example. We don't exchange Christmas gifts with each other. On Lisa's end, she doesn't do well under pressure. In other words, if she has to buy a gift for specific occasions like my birthday, Valentine's Day, or our anniversary, she tenses up and the gift-giving portion of her brain shuts down. She also stresses out because she knows that portion of her brain shuts down and she fears I won't like what she did manage to pick out on a whim.

On my end, I hate opening a pile of gifts for a single occasion especially Christmas. I also don't like giving a pile of gifts for a single occasion especially Christmas. The element of surprise wears off after the second or third gift.

Instead, we give each other "just because" gifts throughout the year. Once in a while, Lisa will come home with a gift. No reason. No occasion. And because the gift isn't for a specific occasion, she does a fabulous job picking something out.

For example, a couple of months ago she was running errands. Lisa happened to notice that Bath & Body Works was having one of their Buy 3 Get 3 Free sales. She had a couple of coupons stashed away in her wallet. And, she knew I was running low on my favorite body sprays and shower gels. When she arrived home, I was at my desk. She told me to close my eyes. That's when she put the Bath & Body Works bag on my desk. Surprise!

Another example is a gift I purchased for Lisa earlier this month. In November, we had some work done in our home to make it more energy efficient. One of the guys used a laser level. Lisa commented that she really wanted one. So, I did a little research. I wasn't too familiar with laser levelers. I wanted to buy her one that was practical for the type of woodworking she does. I shopped online, ordered, and two days later, it was delivered. She loves it and it's the one she wanted.

That's what we do throughout the year. It works for us and, in our opinion, it's worlds better than buying everything at once to wrap and open on Christmas.

Over the years, when I've shared this with other people, once I tell them why we do this and how we give each other gifts throughout the year, their reply is either one of two things.

"Oh, that's such a great idea. I'll have to mention this idea to my (girlfriend, boyfriend, husband, wife...). It would be so much easier and I like the thought of getting gifts throughout the year."


"I can't imagine not buying gifts for my (girlfriend, boyfriend, husband, wife...) for Christmas. Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without gifts under the tree."

I will admit, the first year Lisa and I did this, it was a bit weird. We both felt a little guilty not buying each other gifts. However, in the years to follow, it simplified the Christmas season. There was no pressure. We are able to focus on other stuff like putting together our annual Christmas gift baskets for friends and baking scrumptious treats that I only make for Christmas. We didn't have to deal with the hustle and bustle of going from store to store to store. I didn't have to stress about Lisa's gifts not being delivered on time.

You should try it...

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