As the Black Friday mêlée unfolds (complete with injuries, ambulances and death threats), I’m again grateful for being raised without Christmas presents.
I know it’s “weird,” but being “weird” was nothing new to my family. Weird was our jam!
My parents didn’t ban Christmas presents because they were chintzy or Scroogish, if anything, the Christmas Spirit glowed all the brighter in our home without the whole presents-under-the-tree thing. Yeah, we didn’t have a Christmas tree either.
No, it was a very cognitive decision my parents took after much thought, a decision that pissed off all the relatives. A decision to keep our Christmases Christ-centric and not material-possessions-centric.
Now, at almost forty, not only have I carried on the No Presents Policy but, even better, Michael’s loving it. When our first Christmas together rolled around and I told him, “My family’s never done Christmas presents” he heaved a huge sigh of relief and clambered onboard the “no gifts” bandwagon faster than you can say “Jack Robinson.”
For so many victims of narcissistic abuse, Christmas is a four-letter word. The memories conjured by mistletoe and evergreen are bad, worse and “You won’t believe it but one Christmas my narcissist…!”
Many of those Christmas-sullying memories are about presents calculated to insult, demean and embarrass.
Unexpectedly, my 2017 article Narcissists and Gift Giving is one of the more popular articles on Narcissism Meets Normalcy. I never expected that.
As a blogger, you write an article, fling it out to the ether and there’s no telling what will happen. The ones you think are hot-hot-hot always bomb at the box office, keeping you humble. And the ones like Narcissists and Gift Giving that you reckon are boring go crazy. You readers keep me guessing! 😉
Two years and fifty comments later, I think we’ve established that narcissists are spectacularly bad gift-givers and have an uncanny knack for ruining Christmas, not so much with their stinginess, but by giving gifts carefully selected to be a slap in the face.
Kids of neglecting narcissists often find badly needed basic necessities of life withheld for months, then given at Christmastime as so-called “presents.” The best one I’ve heard of so far is dental floss. My dad sadly recalled receiving underwear and pajamas at Christmastime.
When he was a little boy, my husband would be handed the Sears catalog and told to pick out whatever he wanted, only to always be told that what he’d selected was too expensive. So he began saying he didn’t want anything. In the end, he received the same inexpensive toy year after year after year. As a budding brilliant engineer, he should’ve received an Erector Set but that was deemed too expensive by parents who always had plenty of money for alcohol, alcohol, alcohol and grown-up toys.
This isn’t sour grapes. It isn’t greediness. It’s calling out narcissists for giving gifts calculated to insult.
Over the years, I’ve tried my damndest to select the perfect gifts for friends and coworkers. To the woman who loved big chandelier earrings, I gave big chandelier earrings. To the lady who adored pretty knick-knacks, I gave a music box that tinkled merrily while hummingbirds hovered delicately over a glittery snowglobe. I loved it so much, I bought one for myself too.
Both gifts were received with a frown and cast aside with barely a disgruntled “Thank you.”
With all this bad gift-giving history, is it any wonder that Michael and I have decided to just skip the whole Christmas Present debacle!?
Yesterday, Michael’s youngest daughter called to say, “Dad! I’m at WalMart. Whaddya want?” and I was so dang proud when Michael responded, “Not a darn thing. You spend that money on yourself and enjoy it. Just call me at Christmas. The sound of your voice is Christmas present enough for me” or words to that effect.
Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!
So, after a preamble much longer than the Preamble to the Constitution, here are the five reasons Michael and I are glad we don’t do Christmas presents.
1. Yuletide Cheer
No presents notwithstanding, Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year. I guess you could say that “visions of sugar-plums dance in my head”….and I’m not even sure what a sugar plum is! When a fresh snowfall frosts the trees and the Christmas lights twinkle at dusk, Dickens’ The Christmas Carol comes alive for me.
Jacob Marley rattles his chains. Scrooge’s nephew shouts, “A merry Christmas, Uncle, God save you!” The Marley kids cram spoons in their mouths lest they scream for goose. The plump sister is kissed behind the curtains. And, of course, Tiny Tim’s “God bless us, Everyone” rings in my ears.
No worries about finding the mythical “perfect presents” or agonizing over how we can possible afford them.
According to Investopedia, “For 2019, industry experts expect the average American to spend $920 per person on holiday gifts, up from $885 in 2018 and reaching a total of more than $1 trillion in holiday spending.”
I’m sorry…what!? I blacked out for a moment. Quick, Jeeves! My smelling salts! $920 per person!?!
I’m told my idea of “extravagance” is what other people consider “normal, everyday spending” but….$920!?! That is a lot of money, especially for the millions struggling to make ends meet on a fixed income. It’s just not doable unless you whip out the plastic.
According to Shayne Looper, “In 2018, MarketWatch reported that the average Christmas shopper racked up $1,054 of debt. If that average shopper made minimum payments on his or her credit card, it would take approximately six years to retire their Christmas debt. ”
But before you can retire the debt from Christmas #1 there are Christmases #2, #3, #4 and #5 adding to that debt so, yeah, you’re never getting out of debt, Baby.
Call me cold-hearted, but none of us are getting any younger. Maybe you have one grandbaby today and enjoy spoiling the heck out of them with Christmas presents but look ahead. You have four younger children who will soon be marrying and welcoming more grandbabies to the fold. Suddenly, you’ll find yourself going broke trying to spend the same dollar amount on all of them.
What are you going to do when you retire to live off your Social Security? What if the economic crash of 2008 happens again? There are no financial guarantees. So how about getting off the futile Gift Giving merry-go-round right now?
Is it just me or do Christmas presents seem like a competition? I love you so much I bought you This. I love you so much more, I bought you That. It reminds me of Season 5, Episode 2 of Frasier entitled The Gift Horse where Niles and Frasier compete for the Position of I’m-the-better-son-and-I-love-Dad-the-most by buying Marty Crane more and more extravagant, expensive presents.
Niles: It’s just so damn frustrating. I wonder if that isn’t why we go so insane every year, trying to find the perfect gift, as if somehow finding the right present will magically change everything.
Frasier: The thought occurred to me too.
Niles: You didn’t mention it.
Frasier: It occurred to me.
Niles: So you say.
Frasier: Well, it… stop it!
What we should cherish is the time, the love, the stories, the affection and the hospitality we give and receive from our loved ones. Those are gifts we’ll remember and treasure forever whereas 28% of Christmas Presents worth over $90 billion are returned to the store.
I’m a huge fan of sending people little love gifts for no particular reason at random times. I’m a sentimental sucker for Operation Christmas Child. But Christmas gifts mounded under the tree and halfway up the wall. No way, now how. Ain’t happening, Baby!
Keep your money! Buy something for yourself that hits the nail on the head. I couldn’t thrill you with the “perfect present” any more than you can thrill me. But I do crave your love, your friendship, your support, your prayers especially for Michael and your readership and they don’t cost a thing.
Call me Scrooge all you want but as Dickens wrote, “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.”
God bless us, Everyone!