The Star-Herald

Families discuss different traditions at Christmas

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Ten years ago, Kathy McMann of Presque Isle decided that her family had expanded enough that it was time to end the “expensive and meaningless” tradition of buying presents for everyone at Christmas.

“It really kind of happened out of a conversation I had with a friend of mine and just looking around at all of the lines in the stores and the stress of the holidays,” she said on Wednesday. “I was talking to a friend of mine about how much I hated shopping for my family and friends because there was so much to buy and so much to do, and she said that her family had stopped doing that. She said that instead, they just took one big trip together.”

McMann thought it was a fantastic idea.

She said that at first, she didn’t know if her family members would agree to it, and some of them weren’t on board at first.

“During Christmas one year, I proposed that the next year, we all take a Disney Cruise together instead of buying gifts,” she said. “The grandkids immediately loved the idea. Their parents didn’t, really because of the idea of traveling over the holidays.”

That first year, she said, half of the family took the trip and the other half retained their traditions. Once the half that stayed home saw “all of the fun that everyone had,” they joined them.

“We have taken a different trip every year now,” McMann said. “Sometimes it has been just a small trip to the coast of Maine to stay at a hotel. It has been all about spending time together instead of spending money.”

For some families, the tradition of not buying a lot of presents started long ago.

Jeff Malone, a Houlton resident, grew up in a family of ten children.

“When we were kids, my parents couldn’t afford to buy all kinds of gifts for us,” he said. “So they made it a tradition that each of us got one gift from them and we would pick names out of a hat and each buy a gift for each other. They put a spending limit on the gifts. It was really nice, because you put a lot of thought into the gift because it was the one gift you were going to give your sibling over the holidays. My favorite gift was an old Polaroid camera that my sister gave me when they first came out. I loved it.”

He said that he now uses the gift tradition with his own three children, even though he and his wife both have good jobs.

“But we don’t think that giving a lot of gifts is the meaning of Christmas,” he said.

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