Christmas has been very different for us since we moved abroad, in more ways than just being far from extended family. Even before we left, we became disenchanted with certain aspects of the holiday, particularly surrounding gift giving.
Actually, I love giving and receiving gifts, but it’s not always as satisfying as I’d like. I think giving is most enjoyable for both sides when the person giving the gift is doing it freely and sincerely, and when the person receiving really wants or needs the gift and is grateful for it. If the needed gift comes as a surprise, that can enhance the experience even more. Unfortunately, these factors weren’t always the case when it came to holiday gift giving.
When we lived in the USA, we weren’t rich by North American standards, but we had everything we needed, and so did everyone else we knew. Gifts that people really wanted were usually out of any one person’s price range. And the pressure to buy a gift for all our extended family and close friends made the holidays more stressful. To help with this, the year before we left we simply bought everyone the same gift: a fun board game we ordered in bulk from Amazon.com — the games even came pre gift-wrapped. It was simple, but I suppose not all that personalized. Some years, Christmas giving almost seemed like we were trading money or gift cards back and forth without any real purpose — only because it’s what was expected. Of course we want to give meaningful gifts, and we appreciate the caring thoughts behind any gift we receive, but don’t we also end up buying the things we really need and want anyway?
The difference for us now is that we want and need so much less. We own only what we can fit into our carry-on suitcases. It’s not much, but it’s enough for us. We don’t want more, because then we’d have to carry it around with us wherever we go. We may replace items that are wearing out, but we already have everything we need. Maybe you do too?
This made for a different kind of Christmas last year, because Santa didn’t bring us any presents, and we only got each other small gifts. Our girls had already figured out the Santa myth before then, anyway, thanks in part to the Costa Rican tradition of gifts being brought by “baby Jesus” instead of Santa. Honestly, the holiday wasn’t quite as exciting as usual, but it was an intimate family day, and we enjoyed it.
Make a Difference in Someone’s Life
This year, we’re really excited about what we’re doing for Christmas! A few months ago, Emily was searching online (she’s a great little Googler) and came across a website called charitywater.org. She called for us to come to the computer and take a look at what she wanted for Christmas. After checking it out, we knew it’s what we wanted, too. Watch this quick video to learn about it. Then read on.
There are over 1 billion people in the world who do not have access to clean water. That’s one in eight of us. As the video explains, water affects every aspect of our lives. CharityWater.org provides clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations, and 100% of public donations go directly to fund water projects.
So, this Christmas we are not giving gifts to any family or friends. And we ask that you don’t give us any gifts either. Instead, let’s give to some people who really need it, and make a long-term difference in their lives.
Our goal is to raise $5,000 by December 31, which will provide clean drinking water for 250 people. In 18 months, we’ll also get pictures and a GPS location on a map of the completed water project. If you’d like to contribute and help us reach our goal, please visit the fundraiser page we set up at:
To me, this kind of giving — the kind that is needed and makes a difference — is what the Christmas spirit is all about.
Other Traveling Families
Check out how these other traveling families are handling gift giving around Christmas.
- A King’s Life: Forget the Gifts, Give an Experience this Christmas
- Family Trek: What’s For Christmas? Dear Santa, do we really need more stuff?
- The Nomadic Family: Poverty for Christmas
- New Life on the Road – Dear Mr Santa Claus Whats For Christmas
- With 2 Kids In Tow, It’s Backpacking We Go: Dear Santa, For This Christmas We Wish…
- Living Outside of the Box: The Best Christmas Presents
- Discover Share Inspire: Christmas is Coming – What Do We Give on the Road?
- Bohemian Travelers: Gift giving while living a simpler life
- Little Aussie Travellers: Presence vs Presents Christmas Time for Travelling Families
- Family Travel Bucket List: Feliz Navidad Without All the Stuff
- Livin’ On The Road’s kids: Susan – Christmas Traveling and Peter: Christmas
- A Minor Diversion – Reinventing Christmas
- Carried on the Wind – Christmas Giving