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Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a number of newspapers. After writing this thing for six years, I'm running out of things to say about Christmas. Think about it: four Christmas columns a year, six years, that's 24 columns already! But I think this one isn't too bad. See what you think:

The wedding night must be such a disappointment for many brides—and no, I’m not trying to imply something naughty! It’s just that all the work, planning, dreaming, spending, and creating is in the past, never to be again. Her dream day is over; now real life begins. What a letdown!

Doesn’t the same thing happen to us at Christmas? We plan and cook and rush and shop all for this one day, when family will be too loud, people will be grumpy, and only if you’re lucky will the potatoes not be lumpy. All that work, all that time, all that money, and now it’s over.

What if there were a better way?

Imagine with me today. Imagine if we stopped buying junk made in China and started baking and knitting and sewing again. Imagine if Christmas stopped being about bordering on financial ruin and ended up being about laughing with family and snowball fights and board games. What if we took that time we would normally have wasted nursing a migraine as we pushed through frenzied shoppers in overcrowded malls and instead spent it baking for someone special? Last week, on Black Friday, a Long Island Wal-Mart worker was stampeded to death and a woman miscarried as the crowds trampled everything to reach the sales. No bargain is worth that.

I don’t know where we developed this idea that Christmas fun is directly proportional to the haul we get—or the haul we give. Why does celebration need a pricetag? Isn’t sharing of ourselves worth more than anything Wal-Mart has to offer?

And so imagine with me if Christmas became, as it truly should be, a time to nurture our souls and the ones we love the most. What if we were able to slow down and take time to do puzzles together, sip cider together, and talk together? What if the family together could decorate the house and make the cookies and make gifts for teachers, instead of it all falling into one person’s hands? What if we stopped trying to outdo our neighbours with fancy gifts and instead invited them in for tea?

I’m not saying don’t buy presents; but I am saying let’s question the purpose of those presents. In our family we started a new tradition in the past few years, which I wrote about last year and which people keep asking me about now. We buy three gifts for our children, which we name Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh, based on the story of the Three Wise Men. The gold gift is something they want; the myrrh gift is something they need (like matching socks!), and the frankincense gift is something that nurtures their souls, like a book, a journal, a CD, or a craft. And that’s it. We don’t buy very much for other adults, either. We make things instead.

And here’s the really fun part: we take the money we would have spent and we do something that lasts. We pull out the Harvest of Hope catalog, where you can buy gifts for people on the other side of the world, and we pore over it as a family. We have a few other catalogs, too, and with these we make our Christmas list: a well for a village in Africa; cataract surgeries so two children can see; school fees so a Sudanese girl can go to school; and we’re collecting towels and baby blankets for a container that’s going over to the orphanage we support in Kenya.

Canadians spend about twenty-eight billion dollars on Christmas every year. It would cost ten billion to give clean water to all who need it. Think what a difference we could make if we just changed our priorities!

Wouldn’t it make more of an impact on our families if we gave something that lasts, and then took the Christmas season to create memories, rather than spending it in malls buying things that everybody will forget in three weeks anyway?

Christmas is about giving, loving, laughing, cuddling, baking, creating, and sharing. It doesn’t need to be about rushing, yelling, worrying, fretting, envying, and spending. This year, just imagine.

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At 9:17 AM , Blogger Mel said…

Great Column and I did not know about Harvest of Hope...


At 4:51 PM , Blogger Joyce said…

That's a great column, Sheila. I hope many readers will take heed.


At 6:20 PM , Blogger pedalpower said…

We're doing something like that this year too with all our extended family...pooling our money and buying animals through Heifer International. The money will be much better spent this way and we will all feel better for it, I bet.


At 9:39 PM , Anonymous Amanda said…

We do something sort of like this for our boys. They get 3 things from Santa and 3 things from us. Also, the only adult I buy for is my husband. It definitely makes those migraines a bit easier to handle. :)


At 11:39 PM , Blogger Jenna said…

great post. i love the idea of teaching generosity at gift times. i look forward to doing something similar with my boys. thx for the great idea. i love the family, food, tradition, activities of xmas, not a fan of the consumerism bit.


At 11:35 PM , Blogger Mrs. Querido said…

Oh I love the Gold, Myrrh and Frankincense idea! I am going to share it with my hubby :) We don't go overboard at Christmas because we haven't had a lot of money ANY time of the alone at Christmas! And we believe in cultivating a generous heart in cadence with the true meaning of Christmas :) This year we are delivering 100 Christmas cards (hand-signed by every one in our family) to our local physical rehab center. I am sure that there are a lot of people there who need to know people still care...

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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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