When it comes to shopping for Christmas presents, women seem to fall into two groups –
1. The “I am super excited because I have all my Christmas shopping done by November 1st” group
2. The “I am so stressed out and am running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to get it all done by December 25th” group.
One of the fringe benefits of being in the ministry of Christian education (translation – being beyond broke more times than not) AND of having a “super sized” family, is that even if you wanted to try to figure out how to get all your shopping done in a timely fassion and without stress – you couldn’t simply because of the sheer size and finances involved in pulling off Christmas for a family of nine! (I mean really– most American families go “all out” for Christmas – spending a couple hundred dollars per child. Can you imagine? Christmas would cost us into the thousands!)
Not being much of a shopper ….or should I say – I HATE SHOPPING (my poor six daughters – they will be sorely lacking a Mom to enthusiastically do all that wedding shopping someday – Aunt Cynth will have to be my fill in!) – I have to admit it wasn’t hard to convince me to “throw out” the materialistic gift giving part of Christmas. Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy buying gifts for friends and family and when I see something that I know they will just love or that they really need and I can get it – I do! What I do not like about Christmas gift giving is:
- the obligation (they bought me a gift so I should get them one)
- the waste (getting things I do not want or need or giving others things they don’t want or need – maybe the environmentalists should start blasting that type of waste – it is abundant this time of year!)
- the financial commitment (even if I did make a six figure income – can you imagine buying presents for 7 children, 15 nieces & nephews, 4 grand nieces & nephews, 8 siblings and their 6 spouses plus our parents? – that is 43 gifts just for family – not counting the gift exchanges at work parties and other groups we are a part of, teacher gifts and a few close friends. The time, energy and resources expended for such an endeavour would be exhausting.)
- the attitude I see in many children of ungratefulness and greed.
So I look back to 10 Christmases ago with great appreciation to the Lord for allowing us to both lose our jobs that year and have no resources to purchase any type of Christmas gifts at all. You see it was that year that changed the way we celebrate Christmas to this day. It was that year that we were able to enjoy the true blessings of Christmastime – time with our family and friends, the love and joy of celebrating Jesus birth, and freedom to enjoy the season without any stress. We had a simple Christmas and spent what little money we had on making our house a bit festive, sending out our family Christmas card and sharing our love for others at our annual Christmas open house. (which we added “bring a holiday snack to share” to the invitation) We had several more years of “financial drought” after that which solidified our commitment to keeping Christmas gift giving down to a minimum.
One of our best Christmas traditions was born out of this season – it is called “Secret Sisters”. (although now that we have a brother we are trying to come up with a new name – any suggestions out there that don’t include the word Santa?) Each year after we have decorated the tree we put all the childrens names into a box and they each draw out one. That is their “Secret Sister” for the duration of the Christmas season. Since we want the season to emphasize giving (but not only of gifts) and we want to train our children to serve and live for others before themselves. The secret sisters –
- Pray for their secret sister or brother consistently during the holiday season
- Look for ways to bless them in secret (do their chores for them, help them with school work, write them notes of encouragement, let them have their way – this is really fun because as they are trying to do this “in secret” they have to do things for many of their sisters – so it keeps everyone guessing)
- On Christmas morning they get up and share verbally or with a pre-written note or even a decorated photo album page what that sibling means to them, their good qualities and express their love for them.
- Gifts are optional! If they want to purchase something for their “secret sister” they can, or they can make them a gift or share a special activity together!
It has been a wonderful way to encourage selfless giving and love in our family.
“Secret Sisters” no longer works for our family (I love alliterations!) – Any ideas for our tradition of giving?