jpeg-tomslogo_lores.jpgIn these bleak economic times, with ever-more disturbing manifestations of consumerism and greed in the news, will this finally be the year that we confront our holiday consumption addiction? I’d hate to tell people to not spend money, spiraling the economy into a deeper dive, but something has got to give.

Every year my parents, my sister and I have bemoaned the harried overconsumption that engulfs us in the two weeks leading up to Christmas. We try to cut back on our shopping, but somehow, “more presents” has come to mean “more love.” Maybe it’s overcompensation for not buying enough gifts for each other throughout the year when we gorge at Christmas time. Every year, my mother says, this year we are going to cut back! We all know there’s something inappropriate about it now that the children are grown. We all know there is something a little weird about sending out our Christmas lists of wishes and wants in mid-December, but we—certainly I—just couldn’t stop doing it.

This year, it looks like we are finally going to break the Christmas present addiction. My family has a plan. We are going to give each other one present each, and in addition, to the extent that each person is inspired, we will give each other experiences. Experiences? What does that mean? It can mean something as simple as organizing holiday activities, watching movies while we string popcorn or ice skating downtown. But experiences—at their core—means for me sharing something of our selves, but in a less tangible way than the choice of a physical object. I’m thinking sharing our talents and knowledge with each other in a way that allows us to get to know each other in new ways. It’s about leveraging our passions throughout the year and sharing them with each other.¬¨‚Ć Here’s a short list of ideas for me and my family. Your list would be as unique as who you are.

1. A List Slam for my extended family. Throughout 2008, I organized List Slams to promote my new book To-Do List. Essentially, I invite people to come up and read their to-do lists as if they were poetry. They can be lists of things to do today or lists of things to do in a lifetime. It will be a unique site to see my aunt read her to-do list in front of our twinkling Christmas tree, and I’m looking forward to it.

Now I start making suggestions for my family . . .

2. My stepfather is a talented photographer. He could teach us how to take better pictures. And do a smashing photo shoot of us!

3. My brother is outrageously obsessed with sports . . . he could finally explain the rules of a football game to me and my sister, and maybe even teach us to toss a ball.

4. My mother plays piano. She could lead us in a round of Christmas Carols, and then we can take to the mall to annoy or delight everyone by parading around signing.

5. My sister knits and makes other crafts. She could organize a crafting night.

What would your list look like? How do you want to reinvent Christmas this year, or do you want to keep your family’s traditions the same?