I thought I would create a handy dandy little reference place for those of you looking to celebrate Christmas a little bit non traditionally by finding ways to give to others in need instead of exchanging gifts among friends and family in the conventional sense. (See this post.) They don't have to be huge dramatic steps at first. There are many simple and lovely ways to do this.
It has been so inspiring to wander the internet reading about how families get together in this season to give to those in need and create meaningful family traditions.
I read at A Holy Experience about their tradition of sprouting wheat kernels, one for every kindness, to make hay to line the manger with on Christmas eve before the baby Jesus figure is placed there.
Larissa's family is holding an in family handmade auction this year. Each person makes a gift about $10 in value, and the family bids on them. The money is given to a charity that they all agree on.
I found this sight called Buy Nothing Christmas. It's the brain child of the Canadian Mennonite Association. Their alternatives page is chock full of ideas, and I liked their catalogue too, all things that can be enjoyed for free. (hugs, horsey rides, sunsets, etc.)
I asked a few people I know of who don't give Christmas gifts in the traditional sense to tell me all about it. Tamra from It All Started With a Kiss sent me this beautiful long letter about all of the neat things they have done through the years, which I butchered a little bit for the sake of brevity.
We are one of those odd families who don't buy Christmas gifts for our children. It's not that we're dead-set against it, really. While you could say my husband is a big fan of 'no gifts', he would likely go along if I really wanted to buy a few. So each year I go through all the pros and cons of it again, thinking about all the things I could surprise each child with. Inevitably, though, I get turned off by the vast materialism that seems to drive this country and once again choose to opt out of gifts for the children. Besides, they get enough gifts from their grandparents! (We do make up baskets for our parents, which are a mix of store bought and homemade goodies.)Thanks Tamra for sharing your ideas.Instead of focusing on what we don't do, we have made an effort toward making it a special day.
- Every evening, we open a door on our Advent house and pull out two papers that direct us to different parts of the story about Jesus. (In the past, Instead of an Advent house I used 24 mittens that hung from a clothesline on a wall.)
- We also have a stack of books about the Nativity, Christmas, and the winter season, as well as a few DVD's. Before December I wrap each and place it in a basket. The children take turns unwrapping a book and then we read it together. It's a wonderful way to end the day. (This year with moving, I have misplaced the wrapping paper. So even though I never got around to wrapping the books, we are still taking time to read through each one.)
- Usually, my husband and I would take the money we'd normally waste buying gifts and mindfully help out a family we knew. This year we went through our local Volunteers of America and directly sponsored a family and senior citizen in need. The mother we're helping this year is a single mom with four children. The children have a wish list, and we'll be visiting the family later this month to take them their gifts and a meal. The senior citizen lives farther away, so we'll probably be sending his in the mail. It is heartbreaking to read their wish lists and see their simple requests for blankets, socks or even an alarm clock or lamp. The woman at VOA I spoke with read me one elderly lady's sheet. She had written, "I am very old. But I would like a couch. Second-hand would be fine."On Christmas Day, we just spend time together at home as a family. Sometimes we bake something together (cookies, gingerbread, etc), enjoy the snow, or just have a quiet day inside. At breakfast we read aloud from the Bible about Jesus' birth.We are still working on creating our own traditions. For several years we spent Christmas day with my husband's folks, where it took hours to unwrap all the gifts that were purchased. That began to change when my husband's dad passed away, and we began to rethink what we wanted to emphasize. I am so blessed at that we can approach this season at a slower pace, and truly embrace a deeper meaning for this special day!
Non Commercial Christmas-A few more thoughts
Ideas for a Non-Commercial Christmas #2-What about the family?
Ideas for a Non Commercial Christmas
Why We Don't Do Conventional Christmas