The gift of meaningful experiences

Before I get to the point of this post, I just want to note that I do intend to tie this concept of minimalism to what this blog is primarily about, writing. But seeing as next week is Christmas, I did want to write about that, or at least one aspect of that.

Although my family was never religious, we did celebrate Christmas as a secular holiday, which of course means buying a lot of stuff. When I turned maybe 20-ish, we basically stopped celebrating it (no tree, no presents). My parents and I did spend the day together, however. We would usually go out to the movies, and then go to dinner at a Chinese restaurant. The point was that we were together, and we always had a good time. And no one missed the gifts.

After my parents both died (about a dozen years ago), I stopped celebrating entirely, because I didn’t really see the point. My husband and I used to go out with friends and drink on Christmas, because that’s what married couples do before they have kids. Now that we have two kids, my perspective has changed a bit.

I want to give my children holidays that are meaningful and memorable. Does this have anything to do with getting stuff? Absolutely not. Do I remember anything anyone ever gave me for Christmas? No, not one thing. When I look back on this holiday, and holidays in general, from when I was a child, I remember is tons of relatives coming over to visit, and sitting down to share a meal with them. That’s what I remember, not the gifts.

In fact, the only gift I remember ever was when I was in my mid-20s and bought my mom a spa weekend. We stayed over for two nights and had massages and swam in the pool, and generally had a great time together. That’s why I generally prefer the gift of time and experience rather than material gifts. Instead of taking up space in your house, they add something of value to your life.

I always highly appreciate offers to take me out to dinner or a movie, or offers to take me and the kids to the park or zoo. This year, my husband and I bought tickets each other tickets to a show we wanted to see (Ghost Quartet, for those interested). We are taking our older son to see How the Grinch Stole Christmas at Madison Square Garden. I know these are events we will be able to look back on and remember for years to come.

Did I buy the kids other gifts as well? Yes, because they are very young and of course have not yet learned to not compare themselves to others. But did I buy them expensive gifts? No, I spent about $15 a child (excluding tickets to the show). And in addition to the show we’re going to this Sunday, I also have some activities planned, like having friends over to decorate ornaments and bake cookies. To me, minimalism is not about the absence of things (although a less cluttered house is always a bonus), but rather the presence of people who matter in my life.