So I got back from my vacation and it was like Christmas had exploded while I was gone. Neighbors have put up their Christmas lights. Stores are full of pre-Black Friday deals. Wreathes and ornaments adorn just about every building in the Loop. It actually makes me feel bad for Thanksgiving – such a hugely important holiday and now completely overlooked in the zeal to get the Christmas season started. Listen, I enjoy holidays and a good economy as much as everyone else, but honestly, I’d like to be able to enjoy on my own timeline (not the retailers).
Which brings me to the point of my post: at what point is it acceptable to opt out of family gift exchanges (not including children, because they are a category of their own kind when it comes to holidays)? My in-laws insist on executing a mandatory adult “name exchange” whereby we all select a name and then spend the next twenty-five days bothering each other for gift lists or ideas. To me, simply purchasing something from a list the recipient has provided feels more like yet one more item on a “to-do” list versus a well-thought and fun demonstration of affection. It may sound ‘bah-humbuggish’ to some people, but at this point in my life, with everything else I have to do, I have to wonder, “why bother?” Shouldn’t gift giving should feel more like an indulgence versus an obligation?
This year I suggested going another route, which was immediately rejected. I also inquired about dropping out of the exchange (my sister-in-law did too), which was an option that fell on deaf ears. Unfortunately, it appears we’ll have another year of “to-do” presents (can you feel the joy?) Given that, I surrender. Well, partially. While it appears I can’t do anything about participation in the name draw, what I can do is exert some control over what is gifted to me. This year I will ask my brother-in-law (who drew my name) to make a donation in my name to a local charity that will help people learn English. It is a gift I will feel wonderful receiving, and I hope he feels equally good giving it.