We know that too much of a good thing is unhealthy, yet we still sometimes overindulge. We learn as kids to expect on Halloween a big pile of candy, on Thanksgiving a big pile of food, and on Christmas a big pile of presents.
Sometimes it feels like we're culturally programmed in December to express our affection with gifts.
As a result, people end up spending money they don't have, to give people things they don't need or even want.
An obvious response is to do a better job of gift-giving -- work hard to find the right gift for each person, do plenty of research, beware of pitfalls, etc.
But here at The Christmas Game, we think the better response is to re-think the tradition itself.
That doesn't mean abolishing presents entirely, but limit them to proper situations.
Limiting the present tradition is possible if you create alternative ways of expressing affection and fellowship. Then you won't be tempted to give gifts to people who already have everything, and to people who you don't know well enough to confidently say what they would really like.
Failing to tame the present tradition leads to Christmas present fatigue, the vertigo of losing track of who gave who what or why and do I have to keep acting pleased and surprised?
The amazing thing is not only are there so many alternatives to present-giving, but that they are such great alternatives!
Abraham Maslow taught us the truth: people who already have their basic needs met will care more about meaning than about things.
So when you go Christmas shopping each year, don't shop for things - for "presents" - shop for meaningful moments. Be on the lookout for what people need emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually, not just materially.
And don't just run out to buy them a spa date, a balloon ride, or a wine tour. That's still throwing money at the problem.
Instead, give them something more valuable than money. Give them the most valuable thing you have: your time and attention.
I wonder how many kids enjoy going to a professional sports game with their parents, but would enjoy playing that sport at the park with their parents even more?
The Christmas Game is about finding time and spending it in meaningful ways. Sometimes that's playing a game. Sometimes that's having a conversation. Sometimes that's working on a project together. But it's always better than one more gift, and it usually costs less, too.
Is the present-opening frenzy getting old? Time for a new tradition.