When I was little, I'd spend hours in preparation, studying advertisements, writing and revising my list. I'd try to be the first to get the ads in the newspapers and after every one had looked through them, I'd cut them up. Cutting and pasting picture after picture out of the toys r us magazine of the things I wanted for Christmas that year. My crafty, organized little self loved it.
Our family's tradition on gift giving was that we got a few things we wanted and maybe needed. But most of my favorite Christmas memories consist of the time spent with our Grandparents or aunts and uncles, whom we only saw a couple times a year at most. We'd eat delicious meals, attend special Christmas events at Church, decorate Christmas cookies, listen to and sing Christmas music, work on puzzles, and play together.
As a new family unit, my husband and I bring our own traditions and we've only just started learning and experiencing those. We still do puzzles together, decorate Christmas cookies with friends, and listen to Christmas music. We still have a Christmas list, but now we have the limitless Internet to search and our lists are organized and online.
I've started to think about what gift giving Christmas traditions I want to keep in our family. Will we save all year to buy our children or ourselves the top gift on the Christmas list or to have the ability to give our children as many gifts as possible on their list? Will our children look forward to Christmas because of the gifts they know they'll get? We've grown accustomed to asking and receiving, year after year, what we want.
I know I don't want my Christmas list to be the first thing I or my kids think about when they think of Christmas time approaching (although honestly it usually is).
I often need to step back and remind myself not to believe the world that says buy it now because you want it and everyone else has it. Do I really NEED anything? I have to say the answer is truly, no. I have more than I could ever need. That question of need, while also labeled as practical, is something I must keep asking as the temptations to have like the world has comes time and again. We are compelled in Matthew 6:19-21 not to "store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
But how do I keep myself from making Christmas materialistic and about getting what I want, what I "need". I don't want that to be how my children think of Christmas. Can the gifts I ask for or give hold a little more meaning? Giving gifts is a good thing. Giving bring joy to the giver and to the one receiving. To receive a gift and to know the thought that went into it and the love behind it. It can be a generous and selfless act. We've experienced being able to give beyond how we'd given, now working, money-earning adults, no longer on the college budget we had a few years ago.
I know that I haven't come to a complete conclusion on what gift-giving will look like. I've only come up with a few ideas below, but maybe in some small way these will bring more meaning.
1) Buy gifts from fair-trade stores where the money goes directly to the family of the person who made the item that may be families living in poverty.
Here are links to stores that benefit the men or women who make these products and their families and through which you can host a holiday party to sell these products:
Refugee Sewing Society
Ten Thousand Villages
Plowsharing Crafts- Also has 2 stores in St. Louis
Partners for Just Trade
You can search for more "fair-trade" stores online.
2)Ask that a donation be made to a trustworthy charity or make a donation on behalf of your loved one, such as heifer.org.
3)Request an item that can be bought at a thrift/second-hand store that can be reused or made into something new (for the more crafty diy-ers).
4)Giving your time. Plan a special trip, dinner and a movie, or something new and maybe memorable that the other person would enjoy. While this may sound cheesy, wouldn't most of us say that the thing that we'll hold on to and remember best is the memory of spending time with the ones we love?
5) Ask for something that can be shared with others. Something that will benefit others.
Do people see a difference in the way we celebrate Christmas? Do I even stop to wonder about Christ's birth at Christmas time, or do I just frantically make my lists of gifts I need to buy before Christmas instead of reflecting on what His birth means? Jesus came to this broken earth as a baby, vulnerable and with a sacrificial love unfathomable. Our hope is in this Messiah who came to redeem us and restore us to God. How do I incarnate Christ's love to those around me?
Matthew 2:9-11 "After they [the wise men] had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh."
The wise men gave gifts to Jesus and were overjoyed to the point of worship. What gifts of thanksgiving can I offer to Jesus as the year comes to an end with the celebration of Christmas?