Christmas was always a special time in my home. As one of 7 children, we always had holiday activities and anticipation for Christmas morning. One year, money was very tight and in preparation for the holidays, my parents explained we would have a very different Christmas. We still had a tree with decorations, parties at school and church, and a holiday filled with songs and stories, however, instead of the typical presents, my parents gave Christmas gifts I will never forget. Next to the needed clothes and a small trinket, where a number of unusual gifts. As I opened each gift, I found not toys, games and books, but rice, pasta, flour and salt. My parents had the foresight to buy the things for our family that we needed, not just the many things we wanted.
Over the years, other Christmases brought many wonderful, beautiful, expensive gifts, but the one I remember most was this one. We moved back to the basics and found time together as a family. Years later, I saw the great love my parents had for our family because they did what we needed and not what was popular for Christmas.
As a country, we face economic trials like most have never seen. Many are unemployed or underemployed. Many are struggling to keep their homes. With so many challenges, we should all look to simplify the season, whether comfortable or struggling. Here is a list of little things we can do this year to simplify our lives and remember the meaning of the Season:
- Give what is needed – Instead of spending on the many things you want for the season, look to the things you need. Improve your home through energy efficient upgrades. Give to an organization helping others. Avoid debt by resisting the urge to buy fad toys that will be forgotten tomorrow.
- Spend time with your family – Create lasting memories while working with your family. Teach them a new skill: Cooking in the Kitchen, Playing the Piano, Improving your Home, or Building something together. One year for my son’s birthday, I built a small toy box with scrap lumber and trim from previous projects. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to spend time together as a family.
- Give of your time – Volunteer with your children. Every year I hear stories of families that worked in a soup kitchen, handed out food and gifts to the needy, or donated time at their church or shelter. Become a “Secret Santa” family and anonymously take small gifts to someone who has made a difference in your life. Make the season about others and it will return to you 10-fold.
Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or nothing at all, simplify the season, give of yourself and your time, and find opportunities to be green.
A few places to visit to give this holiday season: