Every year on the day after Thanksgiving the daily newspaper is weighed down with sales flyers, the stores open at ridiculously early hours, and hordes of people set their alarm clocks to begin their holiday shopping at 6 a.m. Every year on that day I think of the Grinch and I understand where he was coming from. If I could fit down a chimney and get my dog to pull a sled, I’d be tempted to steal some gifts too.

Though he was portrayed as a grumpy old guy with a heart two sizes too small, the Grinch had a legitimate axe to grind — the Whos of Whoville had let Christmas get too commercialized. Just like us.

Various polls and surveys show that Christmas time is now one of the most stressful times of year as people worry about buying (and getting) that perfect gift and dreading the credit card bills they will face in January. A 2005 British poll found that 43 percent of the population found Christmas shopping to be more stressful than a trip to the dentist. Another survey reported that 44 percent of Americans feel they spend too much on gifts. Yet each year we go out and shop, shop, shop.

Now in fairness to the Whos of Whoville, on Christmas morning when they awoke to find the gifts, trees, and stockings gone, they still gathered in the town square, held hands, and sang their Christmas songs. What would happen here? Would Christmas still exist if it weren’t for the gifts?

Since gift giving is not going to go away anytime soon, this year I invite everyone to re-focus their gift giving. Rather than buy more plastic junk that has a good chance of being returned the day after Christmas, make gifts about doing, sharing, and nurturing rather than just having. Rather than spend the Christmas money on stuff, consider spending it on family outings that can be shared during the course of the year. Does your child need more video games or would gift certificates to take the family to Enchanted Forest, the zoo or out for a round of miniature golf or bowling make a better gift?

For that adult someone special in your life, what better gift is there than the opportunity to pursue an interest or the nurturing support of a hobby? Consider a “how to” book on a hobby or craft of interest or paying the tuition for an adult education class at Chemeketa Community College, a yoga class, or some similar opportunity to learn and grow.

As the holiday season is now upon us, think of those little Whos in Whoville holding hands on Christmas day and purchase gifts that will bring your family closer together.