Tuesday, December 16, 2008

'Tis the Season

Isn't Christmas a season of giving? Isn't the whole point of exchanging gifts to practice GIVING? It's not about what you GET, it's about what you GIVE, right? Every time someone talks about not exchanging gifts, they use justifications like "too much materialism" and "need to get the focus back on Christ." How is NOT GIVING gifts focusing on Christ? I don't understand. I can understand asking others to cut back on how much they give you or your kids, but telling others that you're not going to give them anything just comes across stingy, every time. "I don't want to feel obligated." You're not obligated! You don't have to spend a lot of money, make gifts yourself if you're that hard pressed! Last year we gave homemade zucchini bread (with homegrown zucchinis) and this year we have a few jars of jam from our strawberries and peaches. Not expensive. But still thoughtful.

I agree that retail stores produce a focus of materialism that distracts from the true meaning of Christmas. But to us it’s really a focus thing: as long as the focus is on Christ, giving gifts is not in itself an evil thing. From the point of view of a parent, giving and receiving gifts is actually a very important part of Christmas. Kids learn how to graciously give AND receive gifts. (you know, smile and say thank you even though they didn’t ask for it, or picking out something they want to give to someone else.) We feel it’s really important to give of ourselves by thinking of others and spending our time, effort, and money on choosing something for someone else. We hope to impart a spirit of giving to our children. It’s not that we feel obligated to give gifts, but Christmas and birthdays give us an opportunity to love others (2nd commandment). When we give a gift, it's not because we feel obligated, but because we're showing love!

Again, though, you're certainly not obligated to give gifts. A feeling of obligation completely negates the point of giving! I like my sis-in-law’s approach: rather than feel obligated to give something just because of the calendar, she gives when moved to. The caveat (again, I can’t seem to help but see it as a parent) is to remember that kids don’t always understand abstract concepts. So if you choose not to send gifts, try to think of other ways to show you care by calling on the phone or sending a card, or if we’re together for a celebration do something else that’s special. I just don’t want our kids to think family members don’t like them or don’t care because they don’t exchange gifts. DH and I were talking about this and we both remember feeling like someone didn’t care at Christmas or on birthdays. One year I received a bunch of hair accessories from my aunt. It looked like she had cleaned out her drawers and sent me all the stuff she didn't want. I'm not even sure she cleaned them first.

I'll get off my soap box now.


Laurie said...

The true spirit of Christmas to me is the love and care we show for others, which includes giving gifts.

When you give a gift to show you're appreciation to someone, it comes from the heart not the pocketbook!

Great post!

Jennifer said...

A perfect summary! Thanks!