We’ve scaled back our Christmas gift giving over the past few years. I’m not sure who in my extended family first had the idea, but at some point we began making donations to favorite charities in lieu of presents. At Christmastime we can count on a few greetings cards letting us know which organization or cause received a gift in our name. It’s nice, though for me not altogether altruistic.
For starters, the idea of shopping for gifts near the holidays nearly turns my stomach. At some point we noticed that a time of year that ought to have time for reflection and celebration was instead marked with stress and too much time at the mall and Amazon.com. Eliminating much of our shopping has been one way to reclaim Advent for its more noble possibilities.
We’ve not completely given up Christmas gifts. I look forward to opening a gift or two from Maggie on Christmas morning almost as much as I enjoy picking out something she’ll enjoy (typically a kitchen gadget of some kind). Maggie exchanges small gifts with a couple of friends and Eliot will surely have something to open from his parents this year. That’s about it. We send a letter and photo to our out-of-town friends and family and call it good.
Last year my mom suggested that the extended family direct our Christmas donations to The Water Project, an organization that brings “relief to communities around the world who suffer needlessly from a lack of access to clean water.” Enough folks chipped in and a well in rural Sierra Leone was repaired and now provides predictable water for the community of Yams Farm. Not bad.
Any other tired Christmas shoppers out there? You’ve got three months from today to introduce your family and friends to a new holiday tradition, one that could benefit some of your local or global neighbors. Not to mention the satisfaction of some extra time to receive Christmas for the gift it is.