Well, I’m making one last post before departing the inner circle of this lovely blog of which I have been so honored to be a part.
For my exit post, I would like to share something related to the season. My sole motivation and purpose for sharing this is not so that you will look at my family and say, “Oh, wow, look what they are doing!” but only so that you might be inspired to consider shaking up Christmas. (Also, this post is not meant to leave out other holidays related to this time of year. Our family’s holiday for this season is Christmas, so that is naturally how this project was born. It doesn’t mean the same idea can’t apply to other same-seasonal holidays.)
The first two children we adopted came to us from a bio relative home. Another story for another day – on my own blog – but part of the problem in this home was a lack of boundaries, and one of the ways this was evident was in the fact that the children were literally showered with gifts at every possible opportunity. This meant that Christmas equated to an entire Toyota Highlander filled to the brim with toys. AskmehowIknow. That first Christmas, which was somewhat transitional, was something of a nightmare. I hauled no fewer than eight garbage bags of stuff up to Mini-Me’s bedroom, and spent an entire day sorting through it, keeping only the most appropriate gifts. I ended up donating about two-thirds of it to charity.
The children never noticed.
For the following two Christmases, I made it a priority not to ask my children what they wanted; rather I watched and listened and made Christmas present purchases based on what I knew my children to be interested in. I made it a goal to purchase few but meaningful gifts, and I met each “This is what I want for Christmas” with a “What is Christmas really about?”
But by year four I knew I wasn’t getting through.
This post isn’t about religion, but I will tell you that part of our family’s definition of the true meaning of Christmas stems from our belief that it is the celebration of the birth of Christ. But we believe that because He is our reason to celebrate, we need to be Him to the world. Therefore, we believe that Christmas ought to be about giving to others and doing for others, and that it should definitely not be about “me-me-me” and greed and self-centeredness and consumerism.
So after trying unsuccessfully for three years to get our children to change their focus, we realized we needed to change their focus – we needed to shake up Christmas.
We got rid of Christmas presents – at least, the Christmas presents for ourselves/our family.
We traded our own presents in for Christmas presents for others.
The first thing I knew I wanted us to do was something for children in the hospital; we decided on books. So every year since beginning our project, we have taken books to our local hospital’s children’s ward. The second thing I knew I wanted to do was to help other whole families. The first two years, we found ways to be matched with individual families who were in need. This year, in place of an individual family, we have decided to take a delivery to a local homeless shelter. It won’t be as “fancy,” but it will hopefully benefit many families.
Now, to be completely transparent – and before you call me a complete monster – we now do “New Gifts for a New Year” with our children – but we have cut them down significantly to “something to wear, something to read, something they want, something they need.”
(And if they had continued with the “me-me-me-for-New-Year” attitude, I would have completely done away with gifts except at birthdays.)
But let me tell you, this seems to have done it. For the third year in a row, I have not heard a single “me” as related to Christmas – or New Year’s. They all get in on the planning and the shopping and the putting-together of gifts for others, and I can tell that their hearts are happy. They couldn’t wait to go do our shopping for the shelter, and they reminded me today that, “Mama, we haven’t finished our book shopping for the children at the hospital yet!”
I absolutely LOVE the way we’ve shaken up Christmas. The whole day is now about the time we spend together as a family, rather than material gifts – we make our deliveries, the kids pitching in and watching the joyous faces and experiencing the joy of giving; and then we enjoy a quiet Christmas dinner at home while watching classic Christmas movies and just being together.
Maybe for some, our story is drastic. I actually know very few who can fathom the idea of giving up Christmas morning presents. That’s okay! I share our story of shaking up Christmas not because I expect every other family to do what we’ve done, but because I hope to inspire others to find one way to do one thing for others at this time of year, in the true spirit of Christmas.
Thank you again to Linda for the opportunity to guest post here in her absence. I had a truly marvelous time, and any dents and dings you may find – well, I have to be completely honest – they came from Pav. 😉