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Best holiday gift: Nothing in a box

OPINION

  • Shoppers crowd a Target in Burbank, Calif., on Thanksgiving Day.
Shoppers crowd a Target in Burbank, Calif., on Thanksgiving Day. (Reuters )
December 11, 2012|By Georgia Garvey, @gcgarvey | RedEye

It's time for a Christmas intervention.

Are we talking about quitting drinking? Gambling? Cigarettes? Lord, no. You gotta get through the holidays somehow.

We're talking presents, and when it's OK to just give up completely on giving them.

I admit it's not easy to tell someone they're not going to hit a single square in Christmas bingo. For years, I dutifully tracked down presents in my price range (roughly the $7-$8 arena for most of my 20s) for dozens of friends and family.

There were my best friends and my close family, along with an assortment of roommates, cousins, Secret Santas, hostesses, acquaintances and co-workers. The holidays weren't a celebration; they were a giant to-do list.

Then, one day, my best friend said these wise words:

"So, you wanna just not get each other presents this year?"

I was, at first, horrified. Christmas wouldn't be Christmas if my family, friends and I weren't indulging in an orgy of consumerism, tearing through dozens of gifts. Then I thought about it.

Does my sister really need another pair of PajamaJeans? Could I live without the Blu-ray DVD of "Battleship"? Would my boyfriend's December be incomplete without a Mitt Romney Chia Pet?

I decided that yes, we definitely would make it through the holidays unscathed, even without that critically acclaimed Millard Fillmore biography in our stockings. Plus, how awesome would it be to never feel the shame of having spent about $50 less on someone's present than they did on yours? It's time to start offering gift-free holidays to almost everyone on our lists.

For family, the new rule is that only people under the age of 21 get presents. Everyone else can eat and drink themselves to Christmas cheer. I say parents still deserve gifts, though, if only for not abandoning you in the wilderness to die when you were 5 after that one time you drew a self-portrait in Sharpie on the new couch.

Girlfriends, boyfriends, spouses, significant others and hookups? Reward them in accordance with how much you'd like to still be seeing them come Valentine's Day. Jewelry/cars/vacations = white-hot desperation. The other end of the spectrum would be the gift card, which basically is one step up from puking in the trunk of their car.

Break the news about not trading gifts to friends this way: "Look, take that money you were going to spend on me and buy yourself something crappy! Because that's probably what I was going to do!"

Then, plan a party or dinner. Do a potluck. Play a game. Be holiday cheesy, but not in the ironic-hipster "I can't tell whether you're being sincere because you think smiling is uncool" way. In the actually-enjoying-yourself way.

If the whole "true meaning of Christmas" thing sounds familiar, that's because it's the message of every holiday movie, like, ever.

Once you get past the crazy gift-giving, the holidays start to seem fun again. The fir trees smell better, the lights twinkle brighter and the joy of not spending three weeks at a mall make you giddy as a bowl full of rum punch. You find yourself stopping people on the street to shout, "Happy gift-free holidays!" (And meaning it.)

ggarvey@tribune.com

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