Recently regaining consciousness, I found the holidays over, gift wrap in my teeth and my pants a size too small. The holiday season must have been a success but from all indications like the credit card bill, my wife and I did not attain the “no gift giving” goal we agreed on, again. That’s a tough nut to crack. Gift giving is a deep tradition to challenge and, to make it more difficult, people who buck the gift giving tradition look like cheap, mirthless souls.

As an individual, I do not mind looking like a cheap, mirthless soul but, as a couple, I must allow for my wife’s generous, kind and convivial nature. It’s a trait which I would not call “my cross to bear” unless I wanted a generous, kind and convivial lecture about the importance of attitude. But despite her seemingly endless holiday spirit, the joys of giving have been steadily eroded by a combination of expense, expectations, blind adherence to obligation and the occasional thankless recipient.

Earlier we performed our traditional, mid-holiday “No More Gifts” rant and ceremonial dance, which was quite fun this year because we established a set of rules that we would theoretically observe in case we followed through with our empty threats. We have come to realize that “No More Gifts” is too radical a goal so we made exceptions to our rules for anyone under 18 who is immediate family, unless they are married, incarcerated or ordained, which no one is at this time but, with family, you just never know.

That was a satisfying decision but soon my wife made an exception for her sister who is of retirement age and lives a continent away only because they both feel like teenagers when they get together. Fine. This brought into question my own sister who is also over the age of 18 and even though we both feel like we are in our 30s when we get together, she was also granted an exemption. Of course they both have husbands who need to be recognized with a gift for putting up with our siblings and their years of family service. It was pushing it but I agreed as long as it was a small gift.

But these sisters have daughters and sons or, more to the point, we have nieces and nephews. Some of them have been receiving gifts from us since they were born. Sure, most have been married at least once but wouldn’t it be awkward if we suddenly stopped sending them Christmas gifts? It was clear that we could not grant an outright exemption here so we put them on a new list of “potential exceptions” if financial and temporal conditions proved favorable.

Shame on us: we forgot about our own children. Even though they all live far away and are over 30, they can’t possibly be overlooked during the holidays. After all, they call home when they get gifts and that alone is worth the trouble and expense. Additionally, along with the gift you can sometimes send them something they are storing at your house, which proves to be a huge fringe benefit in the long run.

Now if your children have children of their own you’d have to be a monumental Scrooge not to send gifts from Grandma and Grandpa. The joy in those little faces is priceless. Only people with hearts of stone could deny them a gift-filled Merry Christmas. I for one am quite comfortable with that stone heart thing but remember the gift giving rules are a compromise. But this really was the ultimate limit.

Not too much later, I found my wife wrapping smallish gifts for local friends who have never received gifts from us in the past. When I asked about our intended path toward no gift giving, she said that she liked giving gifts to our local neighbors and those people were ipso facto excluded from the no-gift list. She may have said in flagrante delicto, I don’t remember, as I got a D in high school Latin.

Finally, I won’t let Christmas go by and not give at least one special little gift to my spouse, no matter what the rule. There are bigger rules out there. You just have to have a feel for them.

But seriously, next year, really, for sure, absolutely: no gifts.

If we can’t handle that, how are we ever going to tackle the Christmas card problem?