Breaking Tradition: How to Start Your Own Family Gift-Giving Traditions

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The world is full of traditions. We tend to follow cultural ones without thought. Consider the types of gifts you give or receive and when you receive them. Are you doing what pretty much everyone else is?

There is absolutely nothing wrong with typical traditions for gift-giving. Tradition can be gratifying, comforting, and fun for all involved. 

But if you’re looking to break a tradition or two and start your own, you’ve come to the right place. We’re about to explore some creative alternatives and even embrace how technology can change the way we find and give gifts to others. Maybe you’ll discover a new tradition or two to use with your family and loved ones. 

Pick a theme for gifts each year

When it comes to big holidays, choose a theme for gifts. Consider themes like “gourmet foods,” “subscription boxes,” or “a day around town.” You’d be surprised how creative and surprising these gifts can be. 

If you’re planning a big vacation, use that as your theme: the beach, the mountains, Paris, etc. Your family’s task is just to find a gift someone else would use to make the most of the vacation, like a snorkel and fins, a pair of binoculars and hiking boots, or a subscription to a language learning app. 

These themes can help break traditional presents and inspire new ideas.

Buy group presents as a gift-giving tradition

There’s no rule that you have to buy a separate gift for each of your family members. Vacations, concert or sports tickets, or memberships to local zoos, museums, or theme parks are wonderful experiences the family can enjoy together. 

You could also spend money on a big-ticket item everyone benefits from, like equipment for a home gym, furniture for a video game area, or a new family game night cabinet. 

A similar type of gift might be a “gift for the year.” Instead of giving your mom a present for Christmas, her birthday, Mother’s Day, and her anniversary, pick a date to give one meaningful present.

Give long-distance gifts

Social media and the internet have a way of connecting people across the globe in a manner unimaged just a few decades ago. Your family could live on the other side of the world, and you can stay in touch with e-mail, social media posts, and video calls. 

Take advantage of technology to send these important people gifts. You can search for, buy, and ship gifts from the comfort of your computer or smartphone. 

If you want to save on international shipping, consider these tech-friendly and less traditional types of gifts you can easily give to anyone:

  • A smartphone app subscription 
  • An ebook 
  • A gift card to an online store 
  • A digital magazine subscription 
  • A gift certificate to a virtual class (for cooking, art, writing)
  • A year of an online TV/movie/music streaming service

Before you know it, you’ll have your own tradition with a long-distance family member, like a new app a year.

Reach everyone with a digital gift exchange

Traditionally, gift exchanges take place with gatherings of people who are all in one place. But distance doesn’t have to prevent you from enjoying a Secret Santa-style gift exchange. 

Here’s how technology can help you start new traditions for sharing surprise gifts. 

Use a digital tool for drawing names

A traditional option for picking names is pulling a piece of paper out of a hat or bag. If the participants don’t live close together, this is a tricky step to pull off. Alternately, one person could draw names for everyone and tell them who they’ve “picked,” but then the surprise is ruined for the host.

Fortunately, there’s Giftster, an online wishlist maker. It can also organize and generate a Secret Santa gift exchange for you. It has these amazing benefits:

  • Each participant’s pick remains completely secret
  • A host can add exclusions, so couples can’t draw each other, for example
  • Everyone can create and see each other’s wishlists

Even if all of the givers in your gift exchange live close enough to draw names from a hat, the benefits of a digital Secret Santa generator may mean you’ll make Giftster part of your in-person traditions, too.

Need some help convincing family to go digital? See why an online family gift registry makes sense.

Host a virtual meeting for opening presents

Who says you all have to be in the same room to open presents? You can all be in the same video chat, instead. Just make sure to send everyone their wrapped or packaged gift before the scheduled virtual call.

Secret Santa gift exchange rules still apply. Everyone takes a turn opening their gift. 

Parents of small children might even prefer a virtual gift exchange every once and a while. It means no traveling with little ones, and they can mute their microphones so the kiddos don’t distract from another family member’s gift opening time.

Create categories to simplify gift-giving

Have you ever heard of the gift-giving tradition for children: something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read? It’s a great rhyme and serves the purpose of reducing unneeded or unwanted gifts children get throughout the year. 

Try something similar. Create your own categories of four or five types of gifts you can try to find for big occasions.

Here are some category ideas:

  • Hobbies
  • Arts and crafts
  • Technology
  • Learning
  • Experiences
  • Health and Wellness
  • Fashion
  • Places to visit
  • Food

These categories can also help your kids come up with gift ideas. Your family will appreciate the wide range of present ideas on your kids’ wishlists. And your kids will know they have to ask for more than just a dozen new video games.

Turn off the technology for your gift-giving tradition

Modern technology can bring people together, but it can also make them feel apart. Embrace technology as part of your strategies to give presents and spend time with your family around the world. 

But for time when you’re all together, consider turning off the TV, computers, smartphones, video game consoles, e-readers, tablets, and smartwatches so you can experience gift-giving traditions without distractions.

Happy gifting! 



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