Every year around this time I start to write a guide for holiday shopping that reads something like: STOP BUYING THINGS FOR THE HOLIDAYS!
Holidays are not excuses to expect presents. Are you celebrating shopping, consumption, and hedonism? Reclaim meaning this holiday season. Reclaim family, and time, and activities. Reclaim holiness, discussions, laughter, togetherness. Stop buying things. Take the stuff you have and give to the less fortunate. Your house, your inner peace, and your family will love you for it.
That's the message I want to write every year. But each year I change my mind.
It's not the concept of buying that's a problem. It's what and why we buy. We buy items celebrating poor character, items that promote solitary enjoyment, and items built with planned obsolescence. We buy because we are supposed to. Because we're nagged to. Because the neighbors do. Because we say that receiving baubles and sugar makes our kids happy, and instant gratification is what counts.
I don't advise that you drop gift giving and replace it with nothing. Hush money gifts or nothing are not the only options. I recommend that you give gifts that build character, foster reconnection, and endure.
Give time. Give attention (but not advice). Give stories. Give hugs. Give walks. Give help. Give items that will endure. Give gifts that foster connectedness.
It won't surprise you that I think that tabletop games - not all, but some - are good candidates for gifts during the holidays.
Games that are more than just licensed toys will endure. Games stimulate and build character. Games are built around the idea of sharing and connection. Not the dice-rolling ones; those foster sore losers and thrown game boards. I'm talking about the ones where you measure your progress against yourself, and your opponents are as happy with your successes as they are with their own. The right people are also key here.
Games are the frugal choice. With high gas prices, not to mention the ecological damage of constantly driving or flying about, games provide an incredible value for your money.
Games are interactive and character-building. They are the choice for mental stimulation. Well, up there with reading books together, anyway.
Games are a moral choice. Choose to foster connectedness, not solitary play.
Of course, games aren't the only option. Hikes or excursions foster togetherness and don't have to be overly expensive or ecologically damaging. Creative projects, group activities, cooking, and community events can also work. I'm sure there are others.
The point is: make the choice. Make your life. It can become a habit.