A Holiday Shopping Philosophy

Obviously, I've been a little off track with my writing schedule this past week. I warned you that might happen, didn't i?

Oddly enough, it didn't happen until I got back from Dallas, when I was hit with a combination of sensory overload (can we just say four weeks of unopened mail) and baby deprivation. Added to that were dogs who needed haircuts, cupboards that needed stocking, appointments that needed making.

Oh, and of course, Christmas shopping.

Truthfully, I can't complain about Christmas shopping because I really don't do much of it. Jim and I decided not to buy gifts for each other this year, and my mom is perfectly happy with the personalized calendar of dog photographs I make for her each year. I bought one gift for Connor (well, two if you count the Christmas picture book which I aim to make an annual tradition), and a few other books as gifts for friends.

We used to go nuts at Christmas time, with boxes and boxes of presents to open. When you have children around, it's easy to do that. You buy a lot of stuff for them, and so you feel as if the rest of the family should have just as many packages to open as well.

I am SO over that. Fair warning, Connor - I love you to pieces, but I'm not going to buy you every single thing you want every single holiday. There was a photo floating around on Facebook the other day that proposed the following guidelines for gifting children:

One thing they want. One thing they need. One thing to wear. One thing to read.

You'll probably have to remind me of that when Connor is e-mailing and Skyping me with his lengthy Christmas lists. Nevertheless, I'm starting out as I'm aiming to go on. He's too young to tell me what he wants, so I picked that for him. I've got the thing to read all set. If there's something he needs, his parents can let me know. The thing to wear? It's ready, but it's kind of a secret so I'm saying no more about it at the present time.

I wish I were more crafty - I have some friends who are so very talented artistically. I'd love to give people handmade gifts but I'm still trying to figure out just how to do that. I'm ecstatic when someone gives me a framed photograph they've taken, or a scarf or hat they've knit, or a box of homemade candy, but I feel like it would be totally narcissictic to record a CD of Christmas music on the piano and give it as a gift.

So I continue to purchase gifts, but I at least try to make them meaningful. I buy books  often, and from independent booksellers when I can, because I want to support book publishing and my favorite authors. I give gift cards for shops or restaurants or movies I know my friends will enjoy. I make donations to charities in friends' names.

While holiday shopping itself is not an onerous task for me, I get more annoyed each year with the marketing frenzy associated with Christmas. I wish more people would adopt a "less is more" philosophy for holiday shopping, although I know it would be unpopular with retailers. The pervasive message that buying stuff is what makes people happy makes me grind my teeth. I know better than that - and I suspect all those holiday shoppers do too.

How about you? What's your holiday shopping philosophy?