Friday, December 3, 2010

The Christmas List

“So, what’s on your kid’s lists for Christmas?” Is the oft asked question this time of year, and, like previous years, it always makes me cringe.

Clearly, whipping up a shopping list complete with weblinks (which my children certainly could do, since they’re far computer savvier than I) is the total antithesis of the reason for the season. My kids are also getting to that age where they only want three things; electronics, clothes and cash and honestly, if you cancel out the first two things and multiply the third then they’re just as happy to save you the trouble of shopping and wrapping all together. The only problem is that this just feels very very wrong. Isn’t the whole point to share the love, recognize the Christliness in all that we do and let the gift part just be a symbolic token? And my kids get this, they do. I never encouraged them to create a list, because it rubs me the wrong way, and yet, when the grandparents ask, it’s better to reel off a few specifics so that the kids don’t end up with socks and underwear. (Though I’ll betcha Mary would have happily foregone the Frankincense and Myrrh in favor of a few naps and diapeys).

But thanks to where we are, culturally, there’s no denying that Christmas is all about gifting, and that fact cannot be gotten away from. So, I struggle each year to find the balance between remembering what this particular holiday means to us and demonstrating it in a meaningful way.

I’ve tried different approaches over the years. We’ve volunteered our time at the holidays to collect supplies for a food bank. We collected our spare change for a whole year, another time, and purchased livestock through the Heifer Project. We’ve picked names off of a local charity’s “Angel Tree” and we’ve selected a senior citizen in need and bestowed supplies. Somehow giving to someone I don’t know makes me feel a little better about giving to those that I do. I’m sure there’s some sort of suspect psychology to it all, but it works.

Because I have a large family (lots of nieces and nephews) we’ve gone the route of just buying for the kids, and then just having one kid buy for another kid, but in the end it just feels as if we’re all standing in a long line and handing dollar bills to the person behind us. In other years we’ve foregone presents altogether and instead gone somewhere together, like to see the Nutcracker or we’ve gone bowling. Bowling definitely beat the ballet in the guys’ eyes, plus you can drink your way through the latter which is a plus.

This year one of my sister-in-laws suggested we get together and have a homemade gift exchange. The rules are, you have to have made (or significantly altered) it on your own and you can’t have spent more than $20. All presents go on the table, and then we each pick something, to be followed by a Yankee swap wherein the gift is allowed to change hands several more times. It’s sort of like musical chairs with gifts. I love all things crafty, so I thought this was a fabulous idea, and with delusions of artistic grandeur I spent two straight days on Etsy looking for ideas, only to have my enthusiasm squelched when I unveiled the plan to my husband. “Oh, that’s just great” he muttered, “so not only will I get something I don’t want, but I’ll get to enjoy having it stolen from me several times only to end up with something else I don’t want. Can I just stay home?”

Bah humbug!

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