Thursday, December 01, 2011

Christmas Giving

Wee Felt Wisemen Ornaments, made with love.
Tutorial from Wee Folk Art.

   There have been years where I've tried to get all my Christmas shopping done prior to Thanksgiving so I can more fully enter into the joy of the season. This year, I'd like to just skip the shopping as much as possible. Christmas, of course, isn't about the gifts, but we do enjoy both giving and receiving them. We are celebrating the greatest gift of all, and it seems an appropriate time to give. But I've been considering where these gifts come from, how they're produced, whether they're even really needed or wanted. We're trying to get rid of stuff, not collect more, so we're thinking more carefully about gift giving this year.

    I come from a big family, and all of my siblings are now married with children of their own. Add in Erik's family, close friends, and our own children, and there's a whole lot of gift giving (and spending) potential. The last few years my family has agreed to give to a favorite charity instead of buying gifts for each other, and that's been great. (Our gift has gone to The Apparent Project in Haiti, a non-profit that employs people, allowing them to rise out of poverty.) I've loved doing this. My family has also, since I was a child, supported an orphanage in Mexico, and has given alternative"gifts" that help impoverished children. One year, Erik's dad and his wife bought a goat in our honor, and another year a flock of chicks for a needy family. (I believe those were given through World Vision. We've also given through Heifer International.) As much as I love to receive gifts, some of my favorites have been ones that have gone to someone else in my honor.

    What about the kids? We will give them a few gifts, or course! (Can I just say how thankful I am that there hasn't been any real talk of "what I want for Christmas" yet!) Two of them are getting backpacks, something they need anyway. Peregrine and Poppy are each getting a new box of pencil crayons and I'm planning to make a pencil roll for each of them. I'm going to get Raphael the Busytown Airport book, and Pearl really is too small to care about presents, although she's getting a tiny backpack of her own. I will probably sew a dress or skirt for Poppy with fabric I already have. We will also give the older three a certificate they can cash in for a special outing with the parent of their choice; they love getting to do this. I bought a Groupon a while back for the local ice skating rink, so we will do that as well. We open stockings on St. Nicholas Day, which is December 6th, and our stocking items are usually somewhat practical, although still fun. (A pair of cute socks, a new pair of pajamas, a box of silly bandages, some chocolate coins, an orange, etc.) We'll spend lots of time as a family creating handmade gifts for each other, our family and our friends. (You can see some of our handmade gift ideas here.) Most importantly, we'll make a point, throughout this season of preparation, to look out for the needs of others and actively seek to help the poor. This may be as simple as keeping some granola bars in the van to hand to a homeless person or by eating more simply so we can share our extra grocery money with orphans in India or needy families in Haiti.

    As we enter into this "most wonderful time of the year" we want to keep our focus on what is most important. It's not about amassing stuff, but about sharing love and celebrating the birth of Christ. We will enjoy both the giving and the receiving of gifts, but more than that we'll find joy in being together, loving one another, and sharing with others.

    This post is part of a writing project of Families on the Move, a group of families who live a nomadic lifestyle or are preparing for long term travel. Read how other families celebrate Christmas "on the move".

A King's Life: Forget the Gifts, Give an Experience this Christmas
Pearce on Earth: A Different Kind of Christmas
Family Trek: What's for Christmas?
The Nomadic Family: Poverty for Christmas
New Life on the Road: Dear Mr. Santa Claus, What's for Christmas? 
With 2 Kids in Tow: Dear Santa, for This Christmas we Wish...
Living Outside the Box: The Best Christmas Presents
Discover. Share. Inspire. Christmas is Coming- What do we Give on the Road? 
Bohemian Travelers: Gift Giving While Living a Simpler Life
Little Aussie Travelers: Presence vs. Presents
Family Travel Bucket List: Feliz Navidad Without all the Stuff
Livin' on the Road- Susan: Christmas Traveling
Livin' on the Road- Peter: Christmas
A Minor Diversion: Reinventing Christmas
The Edventure Project: On Christmas: A Reflection on the Real Gifts


  1. Christmas really IS all about love. Somewhere along the way, we've gotten confused and think love equals expensive and numerous gifts. It's wonderful to hear how you'll be "spending" Christmas this year. Praying it is a wonderful reminder of God's love for us!

  2. Thanks for the links to alternative giving ideas. That's exactly what we're doing this year. I love that the gifts for your kids are practical things they can use in their travels. Enjoy the season!

  3. Thats the second time that I have heard about giving to charity instead of giving big gifts to each other - that is a brilliant idea..especially when the person you are giving to already has too much stuff!
    I love your idea of xmas.


  4. I love all the ideas for sharing what we have with others! Great organizations and so many people truly in need!

  5. What a wonderful tradition you have with your family! I especially love (and envy) that you all create handmade gifts for each other--that to me, is the true spirit of the season.

  6. I love the idea of giving to a good cause. Very cool! Also, the granola bars idea is great...I have always given a banana or an apple...but I don't always have those on hand (and they go bad!). Awesome!


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