If I’m being honest, I’m a terrible gift giver. I admire people who have a knack for selecting thoughtful, creative, and practical gifts. From the moment the radio stations start playing Santa, Baby and the inside of Hobby Lobby looks like Christmas exploded, I scour the internet for gift ideas. Eventually, I give up and just ask for everyone’s list.
However, this year is different. I’m approaching gift giving in a whole new way. 2020 has forced us to reevaluate a lot in our lives. This pandemic continues to shine a spotlight on what’s truly important. When our packed schedules and plans evaporate in an instant, it becomes clear that relationships and connecting with others are the only things that truly matter.
Thinking back to early spring conjures up painful memories. We collectively experienced our very first quarantine. As a result, we lost opportunities to gather with others. Connection with friends and loved ones was among the most gaping losses. For many, it remains an agonizing void. And still, there are thousands of families unable to spend the holidays together. It serves as a reminder that the experiences we share with others provide the greatest happiness and a lifetime of memories.
I’m Not Going to Stress About Giving the Perfect Gift
I’m considering ways to bring the most joy to those I love after this disaster of a year. I have a suspicion it’s probably not a Lego set or a fancy coffee maker (although a cappuccino would help me feel better most days). This year I’m adopting a new mindset when it comes to gift giving. My personal theme for Christmas 2020 will henceforth be: Experiences Instead of Stuff.
In 2010, we lived near Six Flags Over Texas. Our girls were young and had never experienced an amusement park before. That year, we gifted them season passes which included Holiday in the Park. The park was transformed into a magical winter wonderland, complete with thousands of twinkling lights and fake snow. Over a decade later, I can still hear their shrieks of joy when we pulled into the entrance, greeted by a tunnel of colorful Christmas lights.
I’ll never forget my husband carrying our youngest on his shoulders as dusk approached. Our oldest waved at all the costumed characters and begged for “one more time” after her first roller coaster ride.
I still remember what it felt like to hold their hands as we walked through the park, and the feeling of panic as they leaned over to “look at how tiny the people are” from the top of the parachute ride.
Those memories are more valuable than any toy we could have purchased. And right now, making joyous memories with loved ones feels like the best way to slap a bow on 2020.
Experiences That Last a Lifetime
Recognizing that we are far from being in the clear with this pandemic, some experiences will have to wait. Take it from someone who gifted her kids with a trip to New York City last Christmas. That trip has yet to be fulfilled because, as you might expect, NYC is not an ideal destination spot in the midst of a pandemic.
So this time around, we have to get extra creative! Here are a few ideas I’ve been turning over in my head. Feel free to expand on them, or use them as a springboard to inspire ideas of your own!
Family Road Trip
Pull up Google Maps and select a spot to drive to. Be sure to make pit stops along the way and hit all your favorite restaurants, tourist attractions, and souvenir shops. Some of our best family memories were created on road trips where we sang along (badly) to music, had thoughtful conversations over podcasts, or simply reminisced over stories from years past.
Buy tickets to a local dinner theater in your area! At our local theater, the theme of the dinner menu goes along with the show. Several years ago, we saw The Music Man and our entire meal featured dishes from the Midwest, including pork tenderloin and corn casserole. It’s such a unique experience to share, and will likely leave you singing show tunes for weeks to come!
Annual passes for state parks or ski resorts are a great way to create memories with your loved ones. We moved to Colorado 5 years ago and began skiing that winter. Some of my fondest memories are conversations on ski lifts overlooking the beautiful Rocky Mountains. Our time spent in state parks has become such a family favorite that we’ve incorporated a hike into our post-Thanksgiving tradition.
Lunch Dates/ Dinner Dates
My family enjoys eating out, and I enjoy not having to cook! This is a great gift idea to create memories with every member of your family. My husband and I enjoy date nights where we reconnect with delicious food and conversation. We cherish uninterrupted time together to focus on our concerns, joys, or just enjoying each other’s company. In addition, I love taking our kids out for one-on-one dinners. It’s amazing the conversations that unfold while your child has your undivided attention. Bonus points if you choose a cuisine they’ve never tried before like Thai or Mediterranean food!
Does your family enjoy watching television or movies together? Consider putting together a gift package with a subscription to a streaming service. These services provide access to popular tv shows, movies, and a variety of entertainment content. Do you enjoy a good competition? Stock up on new board games or outdoor game sets such as cornhole or crossnet, for instance.
This is an unpredictable season for all of us. Therefore, connecting with those we love most is so important. Making memories that last a lifetime is the ultimate gift of 2020.