Taming the Gimmes

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This article was originally published in the Chronicle Herald's weekly community papers and has been republished here with their permission.

Last year, my children caught the Gimmes at Christmas. I don’t know how they got infected, but our normally sweet, polite, angelic (OK, that may be stretching it) children couldn’t get enough presents. They’d shred the paper off each gift, toss it aside and reach eagerly for the next hit with barely an acknowledgement of what was inside.

This year, we’ve changed the way we look at holiday gifting by focusing on three things that help us give back to our community, better manage the budget, and, hopefully, tame the Gimmes.

Shop local

I’m pretty sure my kids think presents simply fall from the sky — literally in the case of Christmas sleighs — but we want them to start to have a better understanding of where goods come from, the costs, and the importance of supporting our independent shopkeepers.

Gordon Stevens, founder of I Love Local HFX, says shopping locally is always important, but even more so at Christmas.

“Most retailers rely on the holiday season to support the rest of the year,” Stevens explains. “When you shop locally, your money circulates in your own community — providing jobs, supporting local arts and culture, and helping to create and maintain a community's identity.” This year we’re making our list and checking it twice to see which things we can buy locally, and bringing the children along when we can to involve them in the process.

Give back

Not everyone in our city has access to the resources they need to live comfortably, but there are many support programs in each community that help. Feed Nova Scotia is always a sure bet and their website lists several ways to help during the holidays such as donating food directly or organizing a food drive, or programs like Feed-A-Family and Adopt-A-Family.

We’re going to talk to the kids about why it’s important to help others and box up some goods together to drop off at our community food bank, Beacon House. Then we’ll continue to involve them in donations throughout the year.

TIME SHARING

A few years ago my husband and I started giving each other a year’s worth of locally sourced dates for our Christmas gift to each other, and now it’s going to expand to include a few family dates – some chosen by us, some by the kids. We set a budget and we each take six months of the year that we are responsible to plan a date for. Some past examples include a gift card for indoor rock climbing, tickets for a local playhouse, home movie nights, and a hike to the spot where we got engaged (which we both gave each other the same year once - awww).

To amp up the fun we get creative with the gift packaging. Sometimes we include a photo of the activity or give a small token related to the date (such as a pair of craft fair mittens for ice skating).

Here’s hoping that this plan will help tame the Gimmes and help us all to remember to slow down and celebrate the true spirit of the season.