Can’t put quality time under the tree

By Carlye Wisel

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Well, supposedly, at least.

With pocketbooks tightening, gas bills increasing and holidays nearing, thoughts and discussions have turned like fall leaves from Obamania November to What Presents Can We Afford December. With Black Wednesday, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, behind us, it’s a signal that the holiday season has officially begun, for better or worse.

Though department stores fill with Mariah Carey shrills, poinsettas and snowflake-themed dessert tins like usual, this holiday season is undeniably different. We’re hopeful about our future! We love gas! We’re all … economically screwed!


Recessing is anything but fabulous, and the holidays are undoubtedly going to be tough on a lot of people. As we grapple with probably having to downsize the purchases we hoped to make for our loved ones, there’s been an increased emphasis on the holiday spirit. You know, caring and sharing instead of buying and spending. But while it’s good to focus on ways to show you love someone without involving gift wrap, it’s better to find a common ground between want and need, and approach gifting more creatively than not at all.

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“I think that no one should buy holiday presents this year,” wrote Kira Craft in a Huffington Post article Monday. “Materialism has been on a rampage for too long in this country – it deserves a time-out and we deserve an extended vacation from it … This year my goal is to be present instead of giving presents. My focus for the holiday season is to have fun and connect with loved ones instead of worrying about what to buy everyone.”

OK, so maybe prowling through Neiman Marcus’ designer shoe rack on Black Friday and living in my merchandise-induced dream world that involves highly unaffordable $450 Marni heels wasn’t the recession-friendliest way to spend a day. But as sweet as Craft’s idea is, it’s completely Disney-fied.

Yes, we have been materialistic … but only because we are materialistic. People across the country ditched out on Thanksgiving dinner – the edible representation appreciating what you already have – to wait in line to buy discounted electronics the next morning, not to mention that many others woke up before sunrise to do the same.

The main flaw in Craft’s logic is that she suggests quality time and presents are somehow mutually exclusive, which is nonsensical. If you want to cherish your loved ones this winter, who says you have to show up empty-handed? The whole point of giving gifts is to make your family and friends happy, but gift-giving doesn’t mean that you have to empty your wallet. Think about the best gift you ever received – its significance probably belonged in its meaning, not in its cost. And you know what? I’ll bet no one reading this instantly thought of a friend “being present instead of giving presents” as their most memorable.

One of the best gifts I’ve ever received was a cardboard box containing three things: Nilla Cakesters, a bag of tortilla chips and a bowl of microwavable cheese dip. The contents of the simple package were irrelevant – the fact that it wasn’t something you could mindlessly order online was what made it so significant.

It required time. It required a lot of thought. And, it required the giftgiver to know me well enough to take a (fantastic) stab at what I’d want.

If cold turkey doesn’t work for smoking, drinking and dieting, then why should it work for gifting? You can bring meaning back to the holidays without freezing presents out all together. Don’t spare your loved ones a token of your affection – spare them a meaningless one.

Carlye is a senior in news-editorial journalism and can’t figure out why she keeps writing about presents.