When I was a kid, Christmas was about getting presents. Hey, I think most kids are like that. As I grew older, I learned to give but the holiday remained a gift-getting holiday for almost the first two decades of my life.
Then as a college student, I had NO money. So during my freshman year (I didn’t go home for Christmas; I house-sat for someone near my college) I sent heartfelt letters to each family member. My parents still talk about those letters as being a highlight Christmas for them.
When I got married and got a job, Christmas became a gift-giving and gift-getting season again and at first there was joy in trying to find a great gift that would delight my wife. But over time, that gift-searching joy started to wane. We’d been married for a while (about a decade) and had grown weary of Christmastime spending. We were buying gifts for each other that we liked but truly didn’t need.
Like most people (I think) we buy whatever we want whenever we want it throughout the year, so Christmas became a time when we tried to give each other gifts but had very little that we actually wanted or needed. And since we don’t have children, the Christmas gift-giving had less anticipatory build-up than I think it would have had if kids were around.
We didn’t hate the season — it’s fun and it’s nice to give gifts to each other — but rather we just became aware that our “as-needed” purchasing habits eliminated most of our wishlist long before Santa tried to stuff himself down our non-existent chimney. It became harder to buy things.
But what did we like? Books. We love books… they’re like a brutal crack addiction for us. We own thousands of books and don’t really collect anything else. Our retirement goal is to sit in our awesome living room and read books.
So we started doing something book-related near Christmas: We’d choose a day (near Christmas but really dependent on our travel schedule) and on that day we’d do fun book-related stuff…
In the morning or early afternoon we go to a library and we stay there until supper. At supper, we go out to a restaurant. After supper, we go to Chapters and browse until closing, spending the money we would have spent on gifts on books instead.
This has transformed the holiday season for us and it’s become a tradition that we’ve been doing for about the past 6 years or so. It’s eliminated the pressure to find the right gift before Christmas; it dramatically reduces the amount of time we spend in stores during the insane-shopper season (we still shop to buy gifts for family but not for each other); plus, our extended family has jumped onto our tradition as well by sending us the only thing we ask for anymore: Chapters gift cards.
So this past Monday was our Christmas book day — “Merry Bookmas” as I’ve been jokingly calling it this year. We went to a library that we haven’t been to before, spent a few hours browsing their shelves and flipping through dozens of books. Then we ate at Moxies. Then we spent the evening at Chapters.
I picked up a half dozen books that I’d been wanting to read, including Jeff Walker’s Launch, Strategyzer’s Value Proposition Design, and Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit. Looking forward to reading them!
As a child I was focused on the getting. Later, I struggled with giving a good gift (and I’d put up with an insane amount of crazy holiday shoppers on a quest for something that my wife didn’t really need or want). I realize now that neither of those mindsets are healthy or productive. For my wife and I, this season is now about the experience of spending time together doing something we love — reading and browsing (and occasionally buying) books. And the holiday season has become a time of anticipation again!
Merry Bookmas everyone! :)