My Personal Quest to De-Commercialize the Holidays

Do you wish that the Holidays weren’t so darn commercialized? Are you starting to think that it may be time to cut scale back or cut off gift giving, but don’t quite know how to make the transition?

Here is my story on how I came to the realization that gifting was wearing out its welcome and how I’ve tried (at times unsuccessfully) to spread the anti-commercialization message to my family and friends.

Update: my experiment in decommercializing the holidays actually worked!

Video Games, and Toys, and Candy, Oh My!

Growing up, like just about any other kid, I absolutely loved getting presents. I had a list of video games, VHS tapes, CD’s, toys, and anything else a kid would want. I’d go down to the Christmas tree as soon as the presents came out and made a little tear in the corner of the wrapping paper just so I could peek in at what I had to look forward to the next morning.

Christmas morning was the highlight of the year. This excitement, albeit a little more subdued, continued on throughout my teen years.

The Twenties

anti-commercial holidaysThen college came along, and my personal belongings grew with each passing year. Not too long after, I moved in with my wife, and suddenly we had double of everything. Our wedding day added to it. And as the years went by, we started to collect more stuff. Each time we moved we needed a bigger truck to haul our possessions around. We went from a U-Haul to a semi-truck from our first move to our next.

Is this story starting to sound familiar?

With each passing holiday we started to get more and more stuff that we didn’t need. Then, we started to get more and more stuff that we would never use. And then came all of the guilt and associated fear if the gift giver happened to stop by and ask “so how’s the rice cooker?” or “that steamvac is great, isn’t it?”.


Then I Caught the Anti-Commercialization Virus

Receiving gifts around the holidays only added to the stuff that I didn’t need. I started to wonder if others were feeling the same way…

I spoke with my wife and was slightly surprised that she felt the same way as me about gifts. We wanted to de-clutter our lives. We wanted Christmas to be more about the tradition of getting together with loved ones than worrying about giving and receiving gifts. We wanted Christmas to be Thanksgiving: Part 2 (food, family, and relaxation). And we wanted our birthdays to be the same way.

So we stopped buying each other gifts. It was that simple.

And Wanted to Spread our Anti-Gifting Ways

Passionate about our new anti-gifting ways we started to spread the word. Gift giving had been firmly ingrained as an essential part of the holiday experience in my family and with my in-laws. We decided we were going to try to set a new trend. But we knew that it was going to be a tough sell.

We started calling family members to tell them that we no longer wanted gifts. “What?! That’s Crazy! You’re no fun!”. Just the suggestion of breaking the tradition of commercialization was resulting in a hell of a lot of push-back. So we gave in a bit.

The Experience Gift Era

As a transition from material gifts, we started giving ‘experience’ gifts. If you haven’t heard of experience gifts, they are basically giving someone the gift of an experience vs. a material gift. An example might be tickets to a play or concert. We weren’t very strict about what classified as an experience or not, and have worked in bottles of wine, baked goods, and other things that you ‘experience’ in addition to entertainment experiences.

But we kept getting material gifts in return. And despite our request to have the other part stop giving us gifts, we’ve felt like we had to pretend to like them so as to not hurt feelings.

Taking the Hard Line Approach

So this year we’ve started to draw the line in the sand. We have begun calling our family members and telling them ‘no gifts this year’. Thus far, we’re 2-for-3. My wife’s brother and sister agreed – her parents said they ‘still wanted to get us a little something’. Arrggghhhh! Two out of three ain’t bad (thanks Meatloaf).

My Philosophy on Gift Giving & Receiving

I understand the value of giving something special to someone. But the holidays had become simply giving others a laundry list of stuff I wanted. It’s a terribly inefficient process. You get stuff that someone else thinks you might want. No matter how accurate they are, they could never be as efficient as you are in buying only the stuff that you need. So the holidays become this inefficient commercial exchange that leaves everyone with a bunch of guilt-ridden stuff that has no sentimental value and never gets used.

In our transition to experience gifts we found that others didn’t want to put in the time or effort to do the same in return and it resulted in them simply buying us more stuff that we didn’t need. Moving forward, we thought that the only way to prevent this was to simply go the ‘no gifts’ route. I don’t know that there’s a happy medium ground. It’s still a work in progress.

Holidays Commercialization Discussion:

  • What different approach, if any have you taken to holiday gift giving?
  • How do you convince someone to break tradition and not buy you anything?
  • Do you sell or re-gift without shame?

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