Try a lighter, more meaningful and more generous season

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Shortly after Thanksgiving leftovers are disposed of, holiday stress begins to escalate annually. This year, the inevitable pressure to find the perfect holiday gifts appears to be heightened, given the supply shortages caused by the ongoing pandemic.

University of Minnesota professor Joel Waldfogel, who wrote “Scroogenomics: Why You Shouldn’t Buy Presents for the Holidays,” says that while we know what we need and want, understand it for others is not so easy.

Clever ad creators have used this conundrum to lead us to stores or websites with the promise of gifts so perfect you’ll put everyone you know on your list.

As the advertisements of little children descending the stairs on Christmas morning at the sight of an illuminated fir tree lit by cascades of gifts under its lowest branches warmly grips my heart, the anxiety that accompanies the thought of so many. gifts leave me feeling less than happy.

Lots of freebies are not necessary. Children are just as thrilled, if not more, with one or two well-chosen gifts. In fact, between the ages of 2 and 5, my kids would often leave many wrapped gifts under the tree for days, instead playing with the first one they unwrapped.

Overbought simply fuels the make-sell-buy-reject cycle that loads landfills more than hearts. So if you can, take the stress out of shopping and consider a lighter, more meaningful giving season.

For starters, buy local. Many artists in the region have created unique beauties, from jewelry and paintings to garden statues. My holiday season never feels complete without a visit to the Don Drumm Gallery on Crouse Street, where the work of over 500 artists is sold.

You may also want to consider shopping at companies whose business models are based on charity. Every year my sons look forward to:

The Bombas socks, which are amazingly well made, comfortable and cute. For each pair purchased, the company donates a specially designed pair to organizations serving homeless people. Give win-win.

T-shirts from Out of Print, a company whose merchandise contains “iconic book cover artwork and literary references” and price tags that look like library exit cards from days gone by. With part of their income, the company donates books and supports literacy programs.

Logo merchandise from WKSU, our local NPR affiliate, which my boys wear with regional and cheesy pride because “I’ve heard about NPR…” are words one of us says on a daily basis.

Recently, my 25-year-old son Hugo happily realized that his childhood education was not limited to school. “We learned all the time, like, we went to so many museums!” he told me before talking about our favorite.

And while it might not sound like giving a toy, when my kids were young I was deeply grateful to receive annual memberships to museums, zoos, and science centers, gifts that truly continue to give for. at least 12 months. Most memberships cost close to $ 100 per year, a prohibitive expense for many young families.

Finally, since the word “vacation” means “holy days,” helping others seems appropriate. Each year, former New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof writes an annual giving guide, identifying charities that have an impact. This year, one of his recommendations particularly resonated with me.

In 2012, my only daughter was born with Down syndrome, which I write about often. But she also had milky white pupils. Cataracts. Before she was 2 months old, her lenses were surgically removed. Without these surgeries, she would have been blind.

One of the charities highlighted by Kristof this year is the Seva Foundation, which restores sight around the world. A major part of their job is to remove cataracts with a 15-minute surgery that costs around $ 50 per eye.

If the gift of sight doesn’t resonate with you, that’s okay, there are many other nonprofits that improve lives in many ways, too, who are also getting even small contributions.

I understand that many people find great joy in doing everything for Christmas – one of my oldest sons’ high school science teachers happily installed and decorated over 20 Christmas trees in his house each year.

Others find great satisfaction in buying gifts – the first time my son Hugo spent Christmas with his girlfriend’s family, he felt like he had won the current lottery.

But if buying holiday gifts seems like a chore, something you can never do, consider changing the expectations. I’m sure if you do, no one will be as disappointed as the ad creators of Madison Avenue would have you believe.

Contact Holly Christensen at [email protected]


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