Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas Giving With Purpose

As we draw near to Christmas, Jeremy and I have begun to discuss our thankfulness for how blessed we are; Christ’s birth symbolized through Christmas, our fabulous families, our home and all of the crap things we cherish inside of it, friends who help us enjoy this life so much and one of the most important things for us at this time, Petal’s arrival. J We’ve also begun to talk a lot about the future and how Christmas will be so different, just a year down the road. We will celebrate one year of Petal’s. She will get to enjoy all of the aspects of Christmas; we can’t wait to teach her so many things – about Jesus’ birth, about thankfulness and giving to others being more important than getting and very importantly, not touching the Christmas tree… lol.
Side note: Jeremy and I were discussing our friends who don’t decorate the bottom half of their Christmas trees or put gates up around it… we have decided we do not want to parent like that. If that’s your style and it works for you – go right ahead! We want to learn our children what they can and cannot do, without just placing obstacles between them and their… potential “naughtiness”. We feel that just teaches them to go around the obstacle to get to what they want to. We want to teach them to enjoy their Christmas tree and all of its beauty, without lacking ourselves.

Anyway – we have been talking lately about Christmas presents and the cost and how little much (it’s not about the value, but the act of giving to others, right?) we can spend this year. We have talked about how a few different families we know give gifts to their children. Many give as many gifts up to the price point they’ve allotted per child. Some give everything the child asks for or needs.

Others, they give with purpose. By that, I mean we have several friends who give purposed gifts which celebrate the excitement of giving and receiving at Christmas, yet have purposed reasons for the item the child receives. I think we are going to consider this greatly next year when planning gifts for Petal as we begin our family traditions.

Here is what I mean:
Family One: each child receives three gifts – one they want, one they need and one for the family to share (be it an activity or item to share)
Family Two: each child receives five gifts – one they want, one they need, one representing Christ/religious, one educational and one just because (keep in mind – there are five kids in this family = 25 presents!!)
Family Three: children receive two gifts (need and want) but they also participate in “Christmas Culture” or something along those lines… whether it be the Holidazzle, Macy’s 8th Floor Christmas display, a performance at a church or theatre – it’s something to celebrate the Christmas season.

One of the blog writers I follow, Gus and Lula’s Britt discussed this very exact item today! She and her husband are celebrating their first Christmas season with their two new babies Gus and Lula adopted from Africa. She and her husband are purposing their gift giving and also adding a giving back element to their Christmas season. I really enjoyed how she voiced their thoughts. Here is what she said:

Well, that's what we're planning on doing. We're trying it out this year, and I really like how easy it's made shopping. Each gift has a purpose, and our kids are also not going to get overloaded with toys. I like that they won't grow up expecting to get tons of "Somethings they want" -- they'll know they're limited to one. And so they'll have to think hard about what it is they really would enjoy and won't end up with tons of things they'll forget about in a week. Also, this will make it OK for us to give them underwear (need or wear -- oh, the possibilities!) Hopefully this will simplify gifts for us.
While I like this concept, it bothered me that there was still an emphasis on gifts, and not so much on giving. Of course, when they're older they can help with the gift-giving part, but I want giving to be an even bigger part of our Christmas. So to go hand-in-hand with the gift jingle, I came up with this:
This one might need a little more explaining.
"Bring some joy" might be caroling or passing out goodies at a nursing home, or inviting neighbors to Christmas Eve service.
"Give a toy" -- I had either Operation Christmas Child, Toys for Tots, or the Salvation Army angel tree in mind for this one. Basically, it's giving toys to children who are in need.
"Show our thanks" -- this one will hopefully make us more aware of the many people who work to keep us safe or who serve us. It could be taking a plate of cookies to the ER or fire station, making a special appreciation gift for our pastors, or sending care packages to our troops.
"Share our banks" -- When the kids are older, I hope to use one of my friends' traditions to help them raise money throughout the Christmas season (more on that later). At the end of the season, they can choose where to gift that money. Our friends like picking a gift out of the Compassion gift catalog (or something similar). Gifts include farm animals, mosquito nets, and Bibles.

I really enjoyed the four types of gifts she talked about. I think I will discuss with Jeremy for next year. It’s simple enough, yet the child receives four presents to open. J

This has helped me continue to ponder and relish how my parents raised us to enjoy and be thankful for whatever we received. These are the questions I’ve been asking Jeremy and myself: What traditions will we start with our family? Have we thought about what Christmas really means to us and how we want that portrayed to our children? How can we celebrate the fun of Christmas without losing Christ in the midst of it all?

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