Every November, my 86 year old mother-in-law works herself to the bone to make homemade Christmas food gifts for over 65 relatives, friends, and former classmates who live all over the United States. As frustrating and difficult as all this work can be for her, she does it because she knows that her homemade goodies are appreciated by the people who receive them in the mail.
There does comes a point with any Christmas food gift exchange of long standing, however, when it’s time to stop exchanging gifts. Handled nicely, discontinuing the food exchange will probably come as a relief to both sets of people. Say the wrong thing however, you’ll end up hurting somebody’s feelings.
Putting a stop to a Christmas food gift exchange takes a bit of finesse and good timing. Here is how it’s done.
Be mindful of the timing
People who bake goodies for Christmas gift giving usually start their baking about 6-8 weeks before Christmas. If you are serious about stopping the food gift exchange, give your friends a call now to discuss an alternative.
Don’t make it one-sided
What you shouldn’t do is stop the tradition on your side without discussing it with the other party first. It’s in very poor taste to announce that you won’t be exchanging cookies this year AFTER receiving a gift parcel from your friend.
How you stop a Christmas food gift exchange really depends on your circumstances. For seniors, it’s OK to say “I’ve enjoyed exchanging parcels over the years but I’m discovering that it’s getting harder for me to do so much Holiday baking. Would you be fine with just exchanging cards?” There’s also nothing wrong in saying:
….I’m having to watch my money and can’t afford the high cost of mailing parcels anymore.
….I’m diabetic and can’t cook or eat sweets anymore (or are allergic to nuts, suffer from gluten sensitivity, etc) making it tough for me to prepare OR receive food gifts.
….The holidays have gotten out of control and I’m looking at ways that we can make things easier for all of us.
The above excuses are ones that put the responsibility on YOU. Making excuses that imply that your friend’s cooking is the reason that the exchange has to stop will hurt feelings. Some real life excuses that my mother-in-law has received over the years include things like “I don’t eat processed foods anymore”; “my wife doesn’t like the calorie count of your goodies”; and “your caramel corn is too hard for us to eat”. See how an accusatory tone can hurt feelings?
There’s no denying that holiday gift exchanges have gotten out of control and for many of us, it’s a tradition that should be scaled back. Stopping this exchange nicely is possible as long as you start early and choose your words wisely.