Matters of life & love – Transitioning to a Gift-Free Christmas: How to Get Your Multi-Generational Family On Board

by LukeAdmin

By Sarah Tolmie

Reader Question:

“Our family is getting very large and multi–generational. We are now great grandparents. We’ve been buying Christmas presents for many, many, years now. Not only is it getting expensive, we also don’t want to stress our family to feel they need to buy things for us in return too. If anything, we need to reduce our clutter and give away our things. We are hosting Christmas at our Coastal home, as it’s our tradition, the family converges from many directions to our beach home. We don’t want to do presents. No presents at all. How do we get our family on board with this plan?”

Dearly Beloved

This question resonates with me and our family strongly. For many years now we have been trying to simplify, simplify, simplify Christmas. It has been really hard. We’ve done it in small steps over about 6 years. We have it now to the point of everyone receiving only one quality $50 gift in a Surprise Santa style. And last year, we added on for extra challenge, Naughty Santa, where you can steal a gift from another person.

It took a while for us to whittle things down to manage the younger family members but when they progressed into teens, they understood. And when they progressed into adults and had to part with their own money too and participate in the giving, not just receiving, then they really understood

I know Christmas is very sacred to many families, and I know GIFTS is also a LOVE LANGUAGE, and, yes, for many families AND for the planet, it is time to give gift giving a good review. Open up the discussion with your family just as you have in your question. Identify first what you really love and value about Christmas – the gathering, the togetherness, the food and fun, the beach and weather (…or maybe not this La Nina season??).

I find in a good ‘negotiation’, it works to find the shared ground and identify what works and benefits everyone. It also helps not to come in hard with an already decided ‘solution’ and solid position by you to sell to everyone else, but rather, understand and communicate your feelings, your real intention and needs and then enquire what everyone else ‘feels’ and ‘needs’ before you get to the ‘wants’ or ‘don’t wants’. You may find even more surprising common ground and even more interesting and creative solutions.

You may set a budget limit or limit gift for just the children. You might choose to change gifts of ‘things’ to gifting ‘experiences’. Or even, donate what would be your gift contributions to charities instead. There also needs to be room for people to still do their own thing and share their own gifting intimacies outside the family collective agreement if they choose.

Whatever you do, even if you don’t manage a radical change this year, it might be a very good conversation to have around the table while everyone is together for the following year. My hope is that every family can sit around the ‘family circle’ and shares their ‘gratitudes,’; shares their years highs and lows; shares their hopes and dreams; shares their appreciation and love for each other. That is the real gift of the Season.

Much love
Sarah x

Sarah Tolmie – Life & Love: Sarah is a marriage therapist, life & love and relationship coach, end–of–life consultant, an independent and bespoke funeral director and holistic celebrant. She provides holistic care, mentoring, guidance, healing and transformation for individuals, couples and families at their most important times of life & love – at end–of–life, in love & relationship, and in ritual and celebration. Sarah has a relationship online course for couples called “Creating a Miracle Marriage” and a free resource and video series for families facing dying, death and grief called “Landscapes of Life & Love and Loss”. To find out more, visit

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