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ImageTwo years ago, my daughter hosted Thanksgiving with her boyfriend. They invited parents and siblings from both sides and some close friends. During dinner, her boyfriend dropped to his knee and proposed to my daughter. She was overjoyed. Dinner took a backstage to hugs and congratulations and stories of keeping secrets. Then, before we had time for dessert, to revel in the moment or hear her side of the story (what she suspected and didn’t), she left to take her shift at a nearby restaurant. 

This year, my husband asked a grocery clerk how her holiday was. “Quiet,” she said. “After I got home from working I was too tired to do much.” Our family feels strongly about not eating out or shopping on Thanksgiving Day so that others can experience time with family and friends. There’s a growing campaign called “Buy Nothing Day” for Black Friday (and now for Thanksgiving Day too). They say millions of people in 60 countries now make the commitment. 

Leo Babauta takes it even further with his challenge: Buy Nothing Until 2013. He doesn’t mean literally. Necessities are, after all, necessary. He means no gifts or gadgets for yourself or for others. It’s an expression of freedom. Read his post. 

I agree. And I struggle. I grew up giving and getting gifts at Christmas. The Magi gave gifts, we reasoned. And I admit, I enjoyed the magic of Santa Claus as a child.  Yet, I know, as Babauta says,

We are more than consumers. We don’t need to buy gifts to celebrate the holidays with each other … We are alive, and don’t want to waste the hours we have in chain box stores and malls buying things we don’t really need…(and) sales don’t mean we’re saving money — it means we’re spending it. We used precious life hours earning our money, and we want to use that to live, not buy.

Buying local is an option to big box stores and malls and a high preference for me. Yet we still don’t “need” much of what is purchased. And as we move toward simplifying, more stuff just fills the house and requires more time for cleaning and maintaining, exactly what we’ve been working to reduce for the past few years.

For now, we have no young children in our immediate family expecting stockings to be filled with care so we can more easily wrestle with options. We didn’t exchange two years ago and it felt weird. Last year we agreed to find an experience together, instead. We did a group wine tasting class and laughed a lot. It was fun although it didn’t happen until months later so Christmas Day still seemed strange. Christmas morning has always involved waking up to a gifts under the tree (when we were young and for our children, too) so it’s hard to replace that level of anticipation with something else. 

It’s something our family is wrestling with again as we prepare for Christmas together. 

Simple is not easy.