Originally published in the Winter 2009 issue.
What’s the best holiday gift you remember receiving as a kid? Mine was a hand-held blow dryer I got in 1974, when I was 12. I also remember the Christmas dinners at my grandmother’s, my uncle dressing up as Santa and rapping on the window, and decorating the Christmas tree with my mom.
Happy memories of special holidays can last a lifetime, and they’re all rolled up in excitement from opening your gifts to the holiday food, the family fun, tradition, reconnecting with extended family.
Canadian adults spend an average of $1,386 on winter holiday entertainment and gifts, buy an average of 13 presents and spend about $200 on each of their children, according to a 2007 VISA Canada survey. A 2006 survey commissioned by the Canadian Mental Health Association shows that added social pressure, financial stress, holiday expectations and an increased feeling of loneliness all become catalysts for holiday-related stress and anxiety.
Calgary psychologist Dr. Brian Zelt recognizes the need for balance. “I think adults need to re-evaluate what a happy, enjoyable holiday entails.” He suggests parents talk to their kids about the experiences they’d like to have during the season. The surprise is that toddlers and preschoolers are a lot less materialistic than parents think they are. He says, “Particularly for younger children, parents may overestimate how a child perceives these gifts. A lot of kids are happy with any gift and the experience that goes along with it.”
|Spending $200 on a five-course family dinner for 10 with all the trimmings
||Make it a potluck. Spend $30 on a turkey and have your guests bring everything else||Say goodbye to hours in the kitchen and take a winter hike with your kids|
|Mailing out 40 personally addressed holiday cards||Send an e-card or a digital family photo to friends and relations||Save yourself an hour or two of writer’s cramp and $50 or more on cards and stamps
|Using store-bought wrapping paper||Use your kid’s artwork or maps from your travels||It’s the green way to go (plus you’ll save a few bucks)
|Buying a gift for everyone in your extended family||Draw names||Depending on how many gifts you normally buy, you could save hundreds of dollars
|Buying an extravagant gift for your spouse||Spend the money together on something you’ll both enjoy – an item for your home or a weekend away
||You’ll be sure to get something you both really value|
|Spending $40 and an entire afternoon chopping down a live tree||Buy a good quality fake for $150 that will last for years||Spend the afternoon napping on the couch instead|