It may be like spitting on a forest fire this holiday season to avoid the consumer/gift/holiday shopping traps that marketing and social expectations heap on us.
All I can say about this is to be aware of the persuasive impact of advertising, be reasonable in your gift purchases, and make sure to buttress the consumerism with goodwill.
Toward that last item, let me suggest a gift you can give those who are near and dear to you:
After all the food has been consumed and the presents have been distributed and opened, pull out an envelope and hand it to someone you care about. When they open it, they’ll see a small, simple card with a word on it, say, for example, ‘coffee’. Or a color photo of a coffee cup.
The person you’ve given the envelope and card to will have no idea what the gift means. So you’ll have to explain it. You’ll say, for example, ‘Uncle Joe, I know I’ve been really busy this past year and we haven’t had the time to spend together that we should have. So my gift to you this year is that we’re going to meet for coffee twice a month and catch up, just the two of us. Merry Christmas.’
Then, you give that gift to that person for all of 2019.
The challenge with this gift is that, first, it’s not a material thing. Second, it requires you to think about what you could really, truly give to someone, that they would really appreciate, and that you both need. Three, it can’t be self-serving, which is to say, you can’t invite your Aunt Mildred to have a Guinness at the local pub every week, which sounds like a gift I would like to give to an aunt, or any relative for that matter (infants exempted).
The card with the ‘gift’ on it is the present for the other person. It is also the contract for you. Honor it. The thing you’re going to do for the other person is an action: a commitment of time, attention, and effort. There are no refunds, exchanges, or returns. Only performance.
So give it a shot and let us all know what you came up with and how it went over. Happy holidays!