No Christmas this year, maybe not ever again
June 28, 2012 6:38 PM   Subscribe

How do I gently let my family and friends know well in advance that I can't do Christmas gifts this year, no way no how and do not want gifts when I can't reciprocate?

Please bear with me. I know this is not a gracious request, but I simply do not have the resources (health, energy, time, money, etc.) to buy or even make homemade gifts and send them. Nor do I want gifts. This is the first time in my life I can see well ahead of time that I simply cannot do the holidays. How do I let people know without seeming like a complete lost cause?
posted by vers to Human Relations (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I think around, I don't know, November you can tell your friends "hey, guys, just a heads up but I can't really do Christmas gifts this year and if it's all the same, I'd rather y'all not get me anything."

After that, it's up to them whether they give you anything or not (and up to you whether you're going to resent/feel guilty about those who get you things regardless or let it go. I suggest the latter.)
posted by griphus at 6:50 PM on June 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

You could say that you're not able to exchange gifts this year, but maybe it would be nice to exchange stories about the times you all have had with one another. Send letters or e-mails around to everyone with heartfelt messages and ask that they do the same?
posted by xingcat at 6:51 PM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Would your family respond well to some mirth? "Taking this Christmas off, folks! No need to get me anything -- I'll be sending you love from afar." and then if people press, level with them and say what you told us.
posted by Hello Darling at 6:52 PM on June 28, 2012

Best answer: You just tell them exactly this. I would mail out little notes individually to all your family members. Do it now and get all the stress taken care of early so this doesn't weigh you down for the remaining months.

Dear Family,

I just wanted to tell you all well in advance that I can't do Christmas gifts this year. I feel very uncomfortable accepting any gifts from you, knowing that I will not be able to reciprocate. I know this is not a gracious request but I simply do not have the resources to buy or make gifts and send them this year.

I appreciate your understanding, and please know that I love and appreciate each and every one of you.


And then, if your family is like mine, just keep repeating this over and over each time you get a well-meaning phone call from the members of your family.
posted by raisingsand at 6:54 PM on June 28, 2012 [5 favorites]

Perhaps you can ask them to donate money to a charity in your name? That way, they are still giving a gift but it's not for you, it's a gift FROM you and your loved ones too, of course.
posted by livinglearning at 7:04 PM on June 28, 2012

Best answer: Perhaps something like this:

Dear Family,
Given my health issues, I cannot afford Christmas this year. I cannot afford it financially nor in terms of energy or patience for it. If you would be so kind and understanding, the absolute best Christmas gift you could possibly give me is to let me off the hook this year for participating in the typical frantic, frazzled holiday thing. I would be so grateful to receive that as my only gift from you. I can't cope with unwrapping presents, cleaning up afterwards, putting up a tree and all that. If you give me this one gift, I will send sincere thank you notes. (And if you impose Christmas on my frazzled self, I hope Santa fills your stocking with coal.)

Your loving understanding and indulgence is appreciated.

Sincerely with all my love,
posted by Michele in California at 7:08 PM on June 28, 2012 [13 favorites]

Our family just does a "secret santa" type of thing because there are too many of us and most are low-income and/or disabled. This might be something you could suggest to your family.
posted by KogeLiz at 7:12 PM on June 28, 2012

Feel free to pass word along, later, with the word that you'll not be able to give gifts this year (and you'd prefer not to receive any) but expect that you will receive some gifts anyways. You can prep yourself now for that by getting yourself a stack of thank you notes ready to sign, stamp, and send. You might feel a need to "pay back" with another gift but a simple thank you note can go along way towards being gracious towards the gift givers in your life while, at the same time, taking care of yourself.
posted by Stynxno at 7:23 PM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

My family stopped exchanging all gifts (Christmas, birthday, etc.), but not for financial reasons. Our conversation may work for you. It went like this: "It's important when you are a kid to get gifts from your parents, but we're not kids anymore. We have everything we really need. But here's the deal: We all have to stop together, so that nobody will feel bad. Are we agreed, no more gifts? Promise? Swear? Because it would be horrible if one of us broke the pact!"

Honestly, I think we're all happier now that we focus on our time together instead of the rush and panic to find "the perfect thing" (or, gift card).
posted by Houstonian at 7:48 PM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Can't you just tell your mother or one main relative and kind of spread it that way? (And not in question form, in statement form.)

My family basically doesn't do Christmas anymore, definitely not in terms of presents and frankly everyone prefers it. Maybe a tree and the dinner if we are all in same place but gifts, no. And I'm sure many people feel the same as you!!

Take the frazzle and expense out of the holidays. Mention it and set the precedent. Although maybe don't go to the places where people will be upset, if possible.
posted by bquarters at 7:52 PM on June 28, 2012

Similarly to Houstonian, we all stopped exchanging gifts about 6 years ago. My father sends out an annual email reminding everyone that he will not be giving or receiving gifts, and inviting everyone to share in this philosophy. Rather, he encourages us all to indulge in good food and drink, and spend whatever money we might have spent on gifts on something nice for ourselves. And he always adds that young grandchildren (there are only two) are exempt from the no gift rule and can be spoiled accordingly.

Frankly it's a huge relief and has made the holidays much more enjoyable.

Also my Aunt always completely ignores him and buys everybody a few things - and Dad always grumbles. So you may have a few people who ignore your request - but in my Aunt's case, she simply genuinely likes giving things, and we don't give her anything in return (sounds dreadful, I know, but that's how it goes - and she really has everything she could possibly want)
posted by stray at 9:33 PM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

People that ignore the no-gift request are often getting some sort of enjoyment themselves from buying gifts. There is no need to feel guilty about it. Making a big deal out of it and ruining their satisfaction in buying gifts - that would be something to feel guilty about.
posted by COD at 5:37 AM on June 29, 2012

I mean, yeah you can tell them that you can't get anything and don't want anything, but honestly it sounds like you're having a rough time and could really use some gifts to cheer you up/improve your life at the moment. Just saying, if someone does end up getting you a gift despite your protests, the gift you can give them is enjoying it without any guilt...
posted by MangyCarface at 7:58 AM on June 29, 2012

I've done this. It was fine. I just said that I didn't have the money or energy to do xmas that year, sorry all, and please don't get me anything. Some did, some didn't. No one staged an intervention. I may have made a token effort and made some peppermint ice or something.

It was wonderfully stress-free.
posted by corvine at 8:41 AM on June 29, 2012

I love Michele in California's letter.

I broached this with my friends eons ago by saying, "I don't need anything more than I need gas, you don't need anything more than you need groceries. Let's just not, okay?" So I have no tradition of gift-giving among my friends.

Let everyone know your wishes, and if folks choose to send you something, be gracious and thank them, but don't feel that you need to reciprocate. Those giving with an open=heart are truly happy in the giving, and the best gift you could give them in return is simple appreciation. Those who are giving in a spirit of one-upmanship, well, screw 'em, they were warned.

I had a friend get off the merry go round even of sending cards. No harm, no foul. I know I'm not getting a card from her. My choice to send her one is to include an adorable picture of my cats and that's on me.

Enjoy your holidays!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:50 AM on June 29, 2012

« Older Help me rekindle the romance and passion in my...   |   Stupid IE. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.