Tuesday, December 11, 2018
A few years ago, it was my granddaughter’s first Christmas. The first grandchild of the family. To say she got spoiled is putting it mildly. And that’s not all – we didn’t just spoil her. We also spoiled each other. We went right nuts, buying gifts for each other. We gathered at my sister’s house on Christmas morning as we have been doing for the past few years. After brunch we turned around and looked at the piles upon piles of gifts. We couldn’t even find a place to sit down. That’s when we knew we had a problem. Like many families, we had out-Christmas’d ourselves. We had too much.
Christmas is about getting together. It always has been, for us too. But we have decided we are going to make it more about spending real time together and less about gifts from now on. We will be sharing a meal, with conversation. Giving time to that elderly uncle who just got sprung from the seniors’ home for the day, and listening to every last one of his long stories. Sitting together in the living room in front of the fire and attempting to sing along as the real musicians in the family give us their rendition of Joy to the World and O Holy Night. Trying old family recipes out on each other, and staying long enough to do the dishes. Singing some more, as we clean up the kitchen. Documenting the event in photos.
It will take some doing, to break the customary holiday spending habits but we are in agreement, it has to be done. I don’t want my family to be stressed, still trying to find the perfect gift for the last person on their list late at night on Christmas Eve. I don’t want them maxing out their credit cards so they can’t afford to do the things they enjoy or buy the things they need themselves. And this Christmas we are also looking out, beyond our family.
This year we have to focus on the people in the world who need us to share a few of our blessings with them. We have enough. We can buy extra groceries and give donations to the food banks. We can take a few hours to ring bells and fill kettles with cash for the Salvation Army. We can buy a gift for a child or senior on the Angel Tree. Fill a box for a woman at a shelter. Bring some warm clothing to a man at the Mission. Goodness knows they need the things more than we do.
For those few, simple and meaningful gifts that we are going to buy, let’s make them memorable, and environmentally-friendly. Let’s wrap our gifts in wearable scarves, cloth grocery bags, or socks! And let’s think about who is benefitting from our purchases. Who is getting our hard-earned money this year? Another big-box store? Nope. We are buying small-batch, handmade, and local gifts this year. Make a small business owner do the happy dance when you buy gift certificates, products or services – or take a loved one to lunch at a local restaurant. Make your Christmas count.
We ‘foster’ a child in a developing country all year round but at Christmas we top up the donation a bit to have more of an impact in the community. This year we are ‘stocking a medical clinic.’ One year we bought a goat for a family. I don’t care if they actually got a goat or not – it’s the thought that counts, right? And I understand the charitable organization in charge of distributing the wealth has to make sure that no family is receiving an obvious surplus of benefits over another family. They share the wealth. So my goat might have been translated into a clutch of chickens, or something else. But I like to think my goat was real. She was female, she was pregnant, and the woman who received her then had a bit of control over her own destiny, with either goat meat or milk to offer in trade.
A Canadian man attempted to track down his gift goat on a documentary in 2010. You can read about it here.
Whatever you decide to do this Christmas, don’t let the hype carry you away and rack up your Visa bill. I know many families are even just deciding to limit themselves to the simple “something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read.” That sounds like a good place to finish. Here’s to not going overboard this holiday season.
Posted by Diana Leeson Fisher at 2:26 PM