Friday, January 29, 2010

Christmas Cheer

You might be wondering why I am talking about Christmas when it is only the end of January. No, I am not a closest obsessed-with-Christmas-elf. In fact, I don't particularly like Christmas. To be completely frank, I find the holiday season all a bit much. I think it is mostly the noise, and the busyness that overtakes our lives.

In my family, we do things a little differently at Christmas. We don't give gifts. Shock, horror. Pull yourself off the floor now. It is really okay not to give gifts at Christmas. I know it goes against everything our society tells us about the festive sesason. After all, Christmas is all about wrapping paper, packed shopping centres, getting and giving, isn't it?

Well, I personally believe that Christmas is a reminder of a very priceless gift from God; relationship with Him. But whatever our varied beliefs around Christmas are, I find it is all too easy to slip into the get-get-get, along with the rush-rush-rush, ten thousand things to do and only 1 week to do it in, grumpy relatives and stressed out workmates at social functions while we all eat way more than we should and spend way more than we probably want to.

So I'm quite happy that my family doesn't give presents anymore. My parents stopped doing that when I was in my early teens, choosing to give the money to a charity instead. I'm really honoured that they have shown me, by example, that there is indeed another way to 'do' Christmas (we get great birthday presents by the way so I don't feel in any way deprived!). Now for me, Christmas can be much more about spending time with people, remembering the blessings in my life, and reaching out to those who are perhaps not in the same favoured position as I am. There's less stuff that I don't need in my house, and a heap less stress in my person each year!

I came across this really cool video clip recently (it was played at my church) which talks about other things we could do at Christmas instead of monotonously buying gifts. Check it out if you like!
The only thing with all this is that I am a gift-giver by nature. I love giving! I love choosing them, wrapping them, putting a custom-made card with them, and presenting them to the recipient. So not giving presents at Christmas does leave me feeling a little giving-deprived.

So, with the gift giving removed from Christmas, I tend to find that I get a bit bored. The lead up is fantastic, don't get me wrong. I can just cruise through December with a smile in my heart, organise a bit of food and a few Christmas stocking items (usually fancy snack food to keep everyone going until our Christmas brunch). But the day itself seems to drag on forever!

2008's Operation Christmas Child boxes, all ready to go - I had friends come around for a Christmas Child afternoon tea!

Then this year I came up with a fabulous idea! We'd wrap shoe boxes every Christmas Day. For the past few years I've been doing Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes. I buy a few items each month with our groceries, then put them all together into shoe boxes for collection. These are SO much fun to do. You get to buy a whole lot of small items - something to love, something to wear, something for school, something for hygene, something to play with and something special. Run by Samaritan's Purse, Operation Christmas Child delivers these shoe boxes of love to children around the world who have nothing. For many, it will be the ONLY gift they ever receive. Can you imagine? NEVER having been given a present...not once, not ever, in your whole life? For so many of these families, life is about barely surviving, so a present is kind of non-important. So Operation Christmas Child gives a little bit of love to these kids and their families by the simple offering of a shoe box of gifts. If you're interested in filling a shoe box (or so) yourself, they have some really clear instructions here:

There you go. Our new family tradition is that each Christmas Day, we will take time to wrap shoe boxes to fill over the coming year. Each person can put a small gift in to get us started then the shoe boxes will be gradually filled, ready for their early October collection day. This way we get the joy of celebrating Christmas, and get the boxes in on time! We do get to give gifts at Christmas, but without it becoming all about more for us. We will be reminded that Christmas is about love, and giving, and friendship. That it's about time, not belongings. This year, Boyo and I started the tradition off by wrapping a shoe box. I only had one, so we'll have to find a few more during the year!

Here's the start of my Operation Christmas Child 2010 stash - something for school - bought at Warehouse Stationary at their back to school sale, $3.05 per box (I am doing 12 - one for each month of the year). How cool is that!?! Stationary is the most important thing that can go in these boxes - kids always need something for school and often have no way of getting it.

I hope you are encouraged and inspired to perhaps think of Christmas giving in a different light? I realise that Christmas is different for all our families, with different pressures, expectations, and decisions. This is just what has worked for me. Whatever you choose to do, my prayer is that Christmas will be one of love, peace, and joy for your family...and that the year between now and then will be filled with the same! Amy


MaxineD said...

You are just too organised for me... but i will start stashing soon... maybe the next visit to the Warehouse.....

Little Bit said...

Hey - we bought some shoes for me yesterday (new walking shoes), so will save the shoe box for you! While we will do it again this year, we'll use the boxes they provide again as well... will save any further shoe box purchases we may make this year also (although I doubt there'll be many)!!!!