Below is the unlikely story of how my family stopped buying Christmas presents and started creating boundaries for Christmas.

Table of Contents:
-When I learned I needed boundaries for Christmas
-The year I said no more Christmas presents
-Knowing I’m not a scrooge

When I learned I needed Boundaries For Christmas

As a child, I always felt disappointed in my Christmas gifts. (Which of course makes me sound really snotty) But it’s true! I felt misunderstood, as if my expectations were never met.

When I had my own family with my own kids, I didn’t want them to feel what I felt. I wanted to give generously, but also meaningfully. So I put a lot of pressure on myself to buy the perfect gifts. For everyone.

But finding the perfect gift for every single person became difficult, because some ideas came to mind quickly (and were real winners), but some ideas weren’t as clear. Yet I still held myself to the impossible standard that if I get a great gift for one person, I had to get a great gift for everyone else. If you have ever tried to give gifts to multiple people, you know this isn’t super doable.

Then life added a second layer–I became a single mom and was very poor for a while. I had to become more creative, but my standard didn’t change. I was overwhelmed, worn out, and continued to stress about the perfect gifts.

I hit a breaking point years later when I found myself standing in a Costco right before Christmas. Everyone was packed in and running around like crazy mice, looking for last-minute gifts. It felt so stressful, so insincere, and so wrong.

Standing in the Costco, I thought to myself, “This is craziness!” Gift-giving should be from the heart. it should be joyful for both parties, and nothing about this chaos felt joyful.

All I felt was stressed and overwhelmed. I asked myself “How can I make changes in my life, so I find joy in Christmas without all that chaotic distraction?” I needed to reassess my boundaries around Christmas time. 

Then it hit me…Why am I making things so hard for myself? What would happen if I stopped giving ANY gifts?

Boundaries For Christmas: The Year I Said No More Presents

I needed to set a boundary around the holidays, so I could reconnect to the true joy of Christmas. So I went home, committed to trying it.

I was remarried at this point, my kids were between 5-16 years old. I wasn’t sure how they would receive the news, but my husband was on board! So we gathered the family around and shared our decision to stop giving gifts. We explained that it’s not that we don’t want to celebrate, but what we had been doing didn’t feel like the right celebration to us.

We told all of our parents, siblings, and friends the same thing. They were surprised, but a lot of them said “Good for you!” They applauded our recognition that gift-giving wasn’t fun for us, and encouraged our choice to have Christmas boundaries. Even our kids were receptive, and thus began our lifetime of truly peaceful, joyful Christmases (without gifts!).

As the years have gone by, no one expects gifts from us. It’s not stressful, I don’t feel guilty. We’ve set the expectation, and people have respected it. They’re perplexed by it, sure, but for the most part, they admire us for doing it!

As Brene Brown says, clear is kind. I’ve learned that, whether people like it or not, setting clear expectations sets up clear boundaries around your wellbeing.

Knowing “This part of Christmas isn’t fun for me” didn’t make me a scrooge, it helped me stop feeling overwhelmed by the holidays. It helped me not be mistreated, but also it helped me not to mistreat myself. 

Noticing the negative emotions is the first step to knowing when you need to set a boundary–especially around Christmas time! Generally, we have to get uncomfortable enough to want to make a change. We will all hit our breaking point if we avoid caring for ourselves. It might not be at Costco, but if it is, you’re not alone!

If you notice you’re feeling overwhelmed, chaotic, or less joyful in the Christmas season, I’ve been there, and I know that setting boundaries makes a huge difference.

Boundaries allow you to rest and experience the life you want to live.

Boundaries help you define who you are.

If you’re feeling the need to set boundaries around the holidays, I want to encourage you that it’s worth it! It takes courage and boldness, but these decisions honor yourself, and in honoring yourself, you honor those you are closest to.

Praying you have a Merry (truly joyful, within your boundaries) Christmas!

Nancy Sandoval, Cornerstone Christian Counseling Finance

Author: Nancy Sandoval

Nancy wants to live in a world full of DIY projects, Pinterest successes, and power tools. If you can envision it, she can build it!  Prior to joining the team at Cornerstone, Nancy owned a small medical transcription business. She brought her working knowledge of organization and skilled attention to detail to help people in their journey toward growth and healing. When she’s not in the garage working on the next home improvement project, Nancy enjoys spending time with her husband Mark, and their four adult children and four sweet grandchildren. She loves to travel, entertain on her patio, and cozy up to a good mystery, historical, or romance novel!