#36. Dad, tell me why holiday traditions are so financially stressful?

We don’t have to continue holiday traditions that leave us overwhelmed, broke and tired. Traditions should not detract from the season, they should elevate it.

Dad, tell me why holiday traditions are so financially stressful?

Dad, tell me about holiday traditions.  Why do so many people I know seem to be so stressed?  Aren’t holiday traditions supposed to be joyful?

I’m glad you asked!  Yes, the whole point of most holiday traditions, regardless of the culture, is to celebrate something.  That should make us happy and recharge our batteries.  It definitely should not leave us overwhelmed, broke and tired!

Unfortunately, it’s hard to escape the fact that we live in a very materialistic society.  The traditions enjoyed in many cultures of giving little gifts to those we love as part of the celebration has become a time of trying to impress and outdo, always trying to give bigger, more expensive and more impressive gifts to as many people as possible.

Even worse, this simple little act of love, the giving of meaningful gifts to our close family and friends have become, rather than gift-giving, a type of merchandise, where we exchange “gifts.” 

Remember this:  a gift is not a gift unless it is freely given, with no expectation of anything in return.  The joy of giving a gift is in the giving, not in getting something in return.  The latter is not gift-giving.  It is commerce.

Here’s a really good tip for any family holiday tradition involving gifts: Place the names of family members into a hat.  Then let each person draw one name.  Set a limit for how much can be spent on a gift.  A limit of $20 to $30 is a good choice and can be a lot of fun.  There is no need to buy someone a really expensive gift to let him or her know you love them!

Another choice is to only buy someone a gift when you come across something you know that person will love.  Remember, it’s only a gift if it is freely given.  Exchanging “gifts” is really nothing more than commerce.  The items exchanged are no longer gifts, but a kind of bizarre trade that likely does not really celebrate the tradition at all!

Many holiday traditions that involved gift-giving originally gave only very simple gifts.  It might have been some candy or some small handmade craft.  Extravagant gift-giving is more a part of western commercialism.  (It was the Coca Cola Company that invented the modern “Santa Claus!”)

So, whatever your holiday tradition, look into its origins and see how it was originally celebrated.  The chances are very good that it will be much simpler, less stressful and less expensive than the madness you are witnessing, today.  Perhaps it’s time for you to start a new tradition, by leading your loved ones back to the original!

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