3 Ways to Have a Less Commercialized Holiday Season

Are you feeling like scrooge yet? 

I love the holiday season and all of the festivities, but the commercial aspect of it diminishes my joy.

Having to go out and fight the crowds to buy presents is an activity I enjoy about as much as going to the dentist for a root canal.  The longer I wait to shop, the meaner and angrier people at the mall seem to be.

What’s even worse is that studies show that many recipients don’t even appreciate or value our gifts.

“Despite the fact that people spend a significant amount of time and money on gift-giving, their purchases often are less appreciated than they might hope,” say business school professors Francis Flynn of Stanford University and Francesca Gino of Harvard University in a study published in 2011 (WSJ).

Based on my own personal experience, I can attest that this is true.

Last year my mom was most happy to give me a Mint, which is a vacuum/mop that runs on its own presumably to clean the floors while you are doing other things.  My mom is a clean freak, while we, well, we are not.  She thought this would be the perfect gift.

The problem?

Two fold.  We really don’t care if the floors are spotless, and with three young children, there are often toys on the floor, so the Mint wouldn’t really work for us.  After a few months, she started asking if we were using it until I finally had to tell her it was in the basement.  She was angry and asked us to give it back to her so she could use it, which I gladly did.  The rub?  She still hasn’t used it.

Think of your own experience.

Can you remember in June what gifts you received at Christmas?  Chances are you would be hard pressed to remember them all and who gave them to you.

Make This Holiday Different

If the holidays are filled with tension and concern about buying the perfect gift (that probably won’t be appreciated as much as you wish), why not do things differently this year?  Why not get off the commercial holiday track?  Yes, you can say no to the commercialism of the holidays.

Here are three ways to have a less commercialized holiday season:

1.  Don’t give presents at the holidays.

less commercialized xmas

You don’t have to br pressured to buy a cart full of gifts this holiday season.

Robert Fulgum, author of Everything I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten gave up giving holiday gifts.  Instead, he and his wife bought gifts for their children at random times throughout the year, when they were least expected.

You can take this stand too, but you might want to wait until next year so your family and friends have time to adjust to the new tradition.

2.  Volunteer.

The holidays have evolved into a continuous greed fest, at least that is how it seems.  Sometimes, taking the time to step away from all of the holiday chaos and do something to help others is the best anecdote for holiday blahs.  There are plenty of places that need your help from toy drives to soup kitchens to your local church.  Not only will you be helping others, but you will be helping yourself.

According to Prevention Magazine, “Researchers believe volunteering boosts happiness because it increases empathy, which makes you appreciate all the good stuff in your own life.”

3.  Give gifts to needy people.

Maybe part of our gift giving conundrum is that so many of us already have so much, and if we need anything, we can easily enough purchase it.  Maybe we enjoy gifts so much more as children because we don’t yet have the ability to buy what we want or need.

Ann Voskamp, who blogs at A Holy Experience, stopped giving her family gifts for Christmas after her young son one year asked her what Jesus got for his birthday.  Now every year, every day during Advent, they give away one gift such as buying mosquito nets for a child in Africa, or a rabbit for a family so they can raise rabbits and make a living.  Last year, her father joined, and they worked to drill a well for a needy family in Africa.

Of course, most people won’t give up all gift giving, but maybe one of your presents can be a gift for someone else in need.

“According to a phone survey by Harris Interactive and World Vision, 83 percent of Americans say they would prefer to receive a meaningful gift that would help someone else instead of a traditional gift like clothing or electronics” (ABC News).


If you are tired of the commercial aspect of the holidays or tired of running around trying to get everything done for the “perfect” holiday, maybe now is the time to step back and change your way of doing things.

You can choose to celebrate the holidays as you would like, and maybe that involves saying no to the commercial aspect.

Have you ever tried to de-commercialize the holidays?

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Published or updated February 21, 2013.


  1. Everyone on my list gets something homemade. Period.

  2. While we do buy some gifts, we generally try to give things that can be consumed, especially to adults. For example, many of our relatives who like it (not the ones who don’t) will be getting some homemade chocolate raspberry truffle fudge for Christmas. Others will get aprons and kitchen towels made or embroidered by my children, because they actually use these gifts and when they are ragged can dispose of them.

    Some of the children will be getting toys from their wish lists from stores because at that age that is what makes their hearts sing. But it’s not unusual for them to also get some real cooking utensil or tool to be used once or twice, then tucked away for when they leave home in the future.

    Our kids also see and help buy the contents of the Christmas hamper for a family who needs some help this season. They see us get the required food and toiletries, but also understand why we add more: some other groceries to help during the coming week; some extra toiletries to last for a couple of months; some extra treats to brighten up a day that might be sad. Since we build the contents of the hamper over a month or two, it’s a visual reminder that there are lots of people who could do with a bit of help at this time of year. (By the same token, the gift we give to a child who left a wish on the helping tree is every bit as expensive and desirable as a gift for our own dearest. We always hope that we can help the receiver have one truly nice moment at Christmas.)

    I can’t say we’re mall shoppers, so I hope those that are can find a parking spot. We won’t take one, promise!

  3. Sort-let-apartments says:

    You’ve bought just the right gifts for friends and family, so don’t botch things by having presents arrive late. Below you’ll find the deadlines for guaranteed Christmas delivery for three major shipping companies.

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