Christmas 2012 has come and gone. We spent the month of December hiking, playing, reading books by firelight, skiing, and creating new family rituals that we will hopefully continue for many years to come. One of my favorite traditions is giving the gift of experience.
A few years ago we found ourselves at a loss as to what to get our nieces and nephews for Christmas. Do they really need another piece of molded plastic or some small trinket that will quickly end up at the bottom of a toy bin? Since they had never been camping we decided to give them the gift of a family camping trip. We made reservations at a state park and then made invites, a “campfire in a bag,” and treasure maps to unwrap on Christmas day. Our trips have turned into such a success that this summer will be our 4th annual camping trip. Any gift we would have given them would by now be long forgotten. However, I am certain they’ll never forget playing in the woods with their cousins or watching Uncle Brian cook breakfast over the campfire on the “big daddy” frying pan.
This year we expanded our gifts of experience. My oldest son has been asking to try backpacking, so this year we splurged and bought the kids backpacks. To go with I decoupaged a shoe box with pictures from Backpacker Magazine and filled it with maps and hiking books for places we intend to travel to in 2013: Porcupine Mountains in Michigan, the Desert Southwest, and various state parks around Wisconsin. I also threw in a few other books for places on our bucket list, such as the John Muir trail and returning to Alaska.
For my parents, who happen to both be celebrating a significant birthday this year, we made reservations for 4 nights at two different backcountry cabins up in the Porcupine Mountains for a giant family adventure. As for my siblings, we decided to forget gifts to each other and instead got a babysitter and went out for a relaxed dinner together at a favorite restaurant. The same goes for my husband’s family–we have plans to meet up at one of the museums in Chicago (or the planetarium or the aquarium… so hard to decide). Overall it made for a much more enjoyable holiday–we have fun gatherings to look forward to in the future and we didn’t have to stress out as much about holiday shopping.
The tradition of giving experiences is one that we plan to continue for now on. By doing so we are putting more emphasis on the importance of spending time together as a family (instead of accumulating stuff), and creating memories that will last well beyond any toy or trinket.