Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

The ban on Christmas gifts December 26, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 11:33 AM
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WHEN MY ELDEST DAUGHTER first suggested it, I questioned how we could have Christmas without gifts.

Turns out we can. Sort of.

After a family vote, in which we all agreed to not exchange gifts, we didn’t.

Note the word, “exchange.”

I used festive holiday trim and a card from Christmases past to decorate this gift.

A gift from a previous Christmas. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

About a week before Christmas, I considered that I am the mom and thus have the right to break the new rule. And I did.

But I didn’t rush out to buy gifts for my husband, all three of my adult children and son-in-law. Rather, I looked first at what I already had in my home.

Each daughter received a handmade apron belonging to her maternal grandma.

I also gave the eldest a puzzle map of the U.S. Turns out, though, that when she opened the gift, Amber thought she was getting her own puzzle back. Nope, I clarified. That puzzle you played with during your youth was a childhood Christmas present to me. Best cherish this vintage puzzle, even if Kentucky is missing.

The second daughter also got a vintage print I picked up this summer. It’s a print of a girl and a bird which nearly all of the women in my family own—one of those family things.

Miranda’s favorite present, though, seems to be the poem I wrote about her.

That left the men. The son-in-law was easy. He loves blue cheeses made and cave-aged in Faribault. A block of cheese it was for him.

But the 20-year-old son proved more challenging. In principle, he’s opposed to gift cards. Scratch that off the list of easiest possibilities. So I just asked him what he wanted and he ordered it online with delivery promised in two days. Problem solved. The package arrived when he was sleeping. I wrapped the watch and tossed it under the tree.

The husband will get his present, homemade Date Pinwheel Cookies (like his mother used to make, except better, he says) once the surplus supply of sweets in the house diminishes.

As for me, I, too, found a gift—a box of chocolates—under the tree with my name printed on the wrapping. Sweetness from my husband.

My desk caddy Christmas gift.

My desk caddy Christmas gift.

And then there was the surprise, a small square package which, had I not known its source, I might have thought contained jewelry. When I ripped off the paper on Christmas Eve, I found a desk accessory painted in vivid hues of orange, blue and my favorite lime green. Perfect for pens, pencils and paper clips. Darling little Nevaeh, elementary-aged daughter of friends, painted the organizer and delivered it days earlier along with a jar of homemade sweet treats.

Aren’t those the best gifts, the ones crafted with love or the ones that hold personal significance?

Today, when many of you are standing in line to return items like the zebra-print sweater from Aunt Edna or the bulky loon slippers or the set of screwdrivers you don’t want because they are cheap, I won’t be returning anything. It’s not like I would ever return a box of chocolates.

As for the no Christmas gifts rule, I have mixed feelings. Drawing names so each person receives one present would suit me better. But then again, I didn’t miss the shopping, trying to find the perfect gift. Not one bit. No presents eased a lot of holiday stress.

The original proposal, to do something together as a family (like attend a holiday play at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis) instead of exchanging gifts, was a great idea in theory. But with the son living in Boston and one of the daughters living 300 miles away in eastern Wisconsin, it didn’t work. You have to all be together.

My three, plus the eldest daughter's boyfriend, Marc, opened gifts Christmas Eve afternoon. Caleb is juggling on the left with his new juggling balls.

Christmas two years ago, when we were all together and there were lots of gifts given. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Maybe some year. But next Christmas the eldest and her husband will spend Christmas in California with his family and the other daughter may be on-call and…

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling