Buying gifts has become a huge (and sometimes heavy?) part of the celebration of Christmas. But is there a way to make this festive tradition a light-filled one as well? Here are my thoughts this year.
It started with the Wise Men. Well, sort of. When early Christian leaders made the decision to make the celebration of Christmas on December 25th, it was done to replace some of the “pagan” holidays that were already being celebrated. Gift giving was already a part of Saturnalia, a celebration by the Romans. So the Christians took the idea and tied it to the fact that the wise men who visited the baby Jesus brought gifts.
But I like to say that it started with the Wise Men. Because I like to pattern my own gift giving after their wisdom. Not that they brought the very expensive gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. What was most special about these gifts was not that they were expensive, but that they were exactly what this family needed.
As soon as the wise men departed, Joseph was warned in a dream to take Mary and the young child, Jesus and go quickly into Egypt to escape the evil intentions of Herod. How would these desperate refugees have traveled and lived without the precious gifts given to them by the wise men?
So I ask myself, could my gifts be as wise?
First, I try to keep my gift giving pretty simple. For the most part, I only give one gift per person. I do know some families that do the 3-gift rule, and I think that’s a beautiful idea as well. But for me, it’s often just one. And I stick to buying either something that is needed or something that helps further develop that person’s talents.
Side note: My LEAST favorite gift is something that just sits on a shelf. I’ve told my older children for years now to please, not buy me anything that’s going to just sit on a shelf. And accumulate dust. And happily, they’ve obliged.
Second, I keep my list of recipients pretty short. My children. My husband. Our parents. And my extended family does a family gift exchange. There are 5 of us grown children with families, and each year we only have one other family that we buy for. It rotates each year. I’m still trying to convince my husband’s family to do the same thing. But beyond that, I really don’t buy other presents. I know some people want to buy gifts for the neighbors, and their dentist and doctor and mail carrier and on and on. And it’s a kind gesture, don’t get me wrong! If it truly fills your bucket and makes your holiday brighter, then yes, it’s right for you. I stick to less stress and just give a simple Christmas card or a genuine thank you to those I come in contact with in December.
Finally, our family participates in a sub-for-Santa or similar program. The way the Wise Men gave gifts to a family in need, I remind myself and try to teach my children gratitude for the abundance we have been blessed with each year. No matter what size that abundance has been. This year a dear friend of mine is hosting a toy drive in honor of her daughter, who graduated from this life at only 22 months old, earlier this year. The toys will go to children at the hospital that cared for her after her tragic accident. It fills my heart with light to be able to provide a few small gifts to the sweet children in that hospital, and in honor of my friend’s darling daughter.
One last thought… Isn’t it marvelous to see the light on our loved one’s faces when they open the presents that we’ve thoughtfully chosen for them? I seriously can’t wait to see the look on my daughter’s face when she sees the sweater I’ve picked out for her very creative self. I love that light. The light in their eyes and the light in my heart.
How do you make gift-giving light?