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I'm just going to say it: I hate Christmas gifts

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The question

I hate giving and receiving gifts. It seems so materialistic to me - but everyone around me seems to just love it at this time of year. Is there something wrong with me? How can I mentally get behind the idea of gift giving?

The answer

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Christmas has become an increasingly commercialized holiday: you are not alone in your feelings about gifts.

I would challenge your perception that everyone around you seems to love it at this time of year – although many people outwardly may seem to love the holiday season and all the associated traditions. I think if you were to ask people, you'd be surprised at how many share your sentiments.

The Christmas holiday itself is religious - but more broadly is viewed by even those with non-religious views as being a time of celebration, love, and giving. The gift component can take away from the true spirit and intent of Christmas, particularly when an emphasis is placed on what one "wants" and is "getting".

The reality is that the holiday season can also become a hugely taxing time of year from a financial perspective. Unfortunately, the focus on gift giving adds to the social pressure that many feel to "keep up with the Joneses".

The net effect is that individuals often get in real financial debt, which is one of the biggest reasons why the Christmas holidays (and the January aftermath) become the most stressful time of year for many.

Instead of trying to accept something that is inconsistent with your beliefs, speak openly with your loved ones and others that you exchange gifts with about how you feel. I think you may be surprised at the reaction that you get.

Do not be shy about expressing your underlying reasons, which stem from the values you hold. Indicate that you feel that the holiday season and gift-giving is becoming overly materialistic, and that you would like to think of adding some new traditions this year.

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Propose setting a monetary limit or gifts, or only giving hand-made gifts. Suggest keeping the gift giving for children only.

Think about having a Secret Santa gift exchange (where everyone brings one gift, and each person receives only one). Or, propose adopting a family in need and providing gifts to that family.

Send psychologist Joti Samra your questions at psychologist@globeandmail.com. She will answer select questions, which could appear in The Globe and Mail and/or on The Globe and Mail web site. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.

Read more Q&As from Dr. Samra.

Click here to see Q&As from all of our health experts.

The content provided in The Globe and Mail's Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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