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Top 10 tips and ideas to no-gifting this Christmas and why you can ask for nothing this year

Updated: Jun 26, 2021

If you don't wants gifts this year, you might find it hard for others to take your word for it.

Societal expectations are that if you are invited to a party or reception, or just over for dinner, then you should not come with your hands in empty pockets. Zero-waste living is hard when people feel as though they really should - and often want - to bring you a gift as a token of thanks for something. And while we can suggest gifts that are not physical, there is also a question to be asked around the topic of giving gifts altogether: is it needed? Can we all afford it? Does it make us more or less present?

2020 can be a particularly difficult year to buy Christmas gifts

Covid has turned our live upside-down this year. In Singapore, we are blessed with health for the greater majority of us and while our condolences go to the families who have lost someone, most fortunately, most of us have been spared this grief thanks to the impressive measures taken in this country. However, we have felt the financial impact of the pandemic and this might be the best time to reconsider whether you or your family is in a position to be buying gifts this year. You can still gift without buying!

This wonderful article entitled "The Joy of No-Gift Christmas", published by The Atlantic, interviews families for whom gift-giving is no longer part of their celebrations. The families range from those who have made gift-type and budget rules such as re-gifting things they already own but that are not appreciated enough or forgotten so as to rediscover them, while others forego gifting altogether such as Raagini Appadurai.

Raagini Appadurai, a 26-year-old educator and social-justice advocate living in Toronto, told me that her family—her two sisters, her parents, and herself—made a no-gifts pact this year. “When we remove material purchasing and consumption from the table, we are forced to question what we are bringing to [the holiday] instead—individually and collectively,” she said. “After our family reflection on this, the answer has been clear: Ourselves, we bring more of ourselves.” She told me that her family’s Christmas-morning plan is to gather around the tree as in years past, whether there are presents underneath it or not.

Before we suggest a few ways to encourage the acceptance of no-gifting, remember to be honest with yourself. If you don't mind receiving gifts or even want to receive gifts then just don't pretend you don't. No one likes false modesty and it doesn't make you very likeable! You might feel you are happy with receiving experiences, food hampers, subscriptions and other items. If so, be open about it. But if your concern is that people feel the need to gift and you don't want them to spend anything on you this year, then we have 5 tips to make guests respect your no-gift choice.

Top 5 Tips to get others to respect your no-gift request.

Certainly, you have a few times said you did not want any gifts. And even more certainly, if you did, many ignored this request and still got you something. Maybe they thought you didn't mean it, or they thought you meant no physical gifts.

So, how can we all stop the deceit around this no-gift requests? Here are a few recommendations we found across the internet and from our own experiences.

  • Mean it, own it, if you say it. Clearly, if you tell people that no presents are required then you should not be suggesting alternatives (such as bringing gifts you want to donate to a charity, they will likely still need to buy something new). Likewise, saying you prefer contributions to a new home-improvement project or foot the bill for the restaurant next time round! Not to be confused with potluck parties where bring food or drinks is actually part of the event organisation. But if it's not, don't suggest they bring something for the party either.

  • Don’t be the invitee who makes a fuss over the request. You expect others to accept that you don't want any gift? Then start by trying to kick the bad habit - created by societal expectations and decades of being told it's rude to not gift something - of repeatedly asking your friends and family if they “are sure you don’t want anything?”. It could make others feel awkward, make them give up, and really does not help you convince them to respect your own requests in future! We need to cultivate a different societal norm whereby it is not rude to come empty-handed if you've been asked to do so!

  • Treat all your guests the same, gift-bearing or not. If a guest ignores a request from the host to not bring a gift, it makes everyone else in the party feel guilty for having come empty-handed if that gift-bringing individual is gushed over for their thoughtfulness. Smile, say thanks, and put the gift away in a polite way. Don't rush to hide it either, the idea isn't to be disrespectful, just to not make it stand out as special and to make sure your other guests don't feel like they did something wrong.

  • Do not feel guilty at a no-gift party when others bring something. It's hard to not feel guilty - hence why the above is so very important. But you will inevitably find yourself in those same shoes. Do not overthink it, try to bear in mid that you were the polite guest who respected the host's wishes.

  • Don't feel the need to bring at least something and make a hand-made gift. It's still a gift, one they likely don't need or want. Time is precious, and showing you took the time to make something is meaningful, but there are other ways to do it. Read on

Now, to eliminate any misunderstanding, we don't mean in any way that gift-giving is bad and that we should not promote sharing and being generous. What we want to highlight is the fact that there is joy to be found in sending and receiving other things than gifts.

What to give friends and family who don't want gifts

So here are a few