Could You Celebrate Christmas Without Presents?

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Christmas is all about the spirit of giving, so in a recessive economy, Americans are figuring out ways to celebrate without expensive gifts. Whether families are trying to save money, focus on the religiousness of the holiday or are just interested in reducing materialism, the 2009 holiday season could be present-free for many households.

With joblessness on the rise, some families are limiting gift-buying to immediate family only, or doing a "Secret Santa" drawing where each person in the family only has to buy one gift.

Personal finance author Ramit Sethi created a website called NoChristmasGiftsThisYear.com to spread the idea of a giftless holiday. The site offers an e-card that you can send friends and family, asking them to do something together -- play games, volunteer, cook a meal -- instead of buying a present.

"People are in debt and they're losing jobs every day," Sethi tells the Associate Press. "Yet there's one sacred cow that we can't seem to shake, no matter how bad things get."

Even the Obamas try to keep Sasha and Malia's presents to a minimum. There's always something under the tree from Santa Claus, the couple told People, but in an effort to teach the girls limits, they don't get gifts directly from their parents. First lady Michelle Obama said, "They get so much stuff anyway that it just becomes numbing."
A study of 117 people published in the Journal of Happiness Studies found that people who made the holiday mostly about spending time with their loved ones had merrier Christmases than those who spent money on or received costly presents. "Despite the fact that people spend relatively large portions of their income on gifts, as well as time shopping for and wrapping them, such behavior apparently contributes little to holiday joy," wrote the researchers, Tim Kasser of Knox College and Kennon M. Sheldon of the University of Missouri-Columbia.

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