Christmas can easily slip into being about the gifts and the shopping. It isn’t our intention of course but our scramble to meet the expectations we’ve set for decorating, gift giving and celebrating can leave us feeling overwhelmed, overspent and empty.
A number of years ago, I found myself dreading the holiday, the endless preparations, the pressure to get the perfect Christmas card picture AND get it sent out on time, the crowds in the malls, my grouchy children crying and fighting over gifts on Christmas morning. Christmas had morphed into something that we never intended it to be. So that year, we cut back on the amount of gifts we bought for each of our kids. We bought them one gift each and some stocking stuffers. We found that they expressed more gratitude that year and that our home was more peaceful and less stressed leading up to the holiday and on that day.
Every year since, we have found new ways to point our focus back onto Christ, the reason for Christmas in the first place. We have scaled back even further on the gifts we give the kids and have yet to hear a complaint. We have participated in charitable endeavours as a family during the holidays and last year, after being inspired by a stranger paying for our entire family’s meal in a restaurant, we decided to make our advent season about paying it forward. We set out to do acts of kindness every day in little and small ways and were so blessed by it. It also drew us closer together and closer to God.
Another thing we changed was what gifts we give to our extended family members. Where we used to spend time and money buying them something that they may never use and probably already had, we began to be more purposeful about our gifts and have discovered many gifts that give back.
These are things that won’t clutter up the closets or get returned during those frenzied Boxing Week sales. These gifts are ones you can derive real joy both in giving and in receiving.
Gifts for a family going through a hard time…
You may know or know of a family who is going through a hard time, be it the loss of a loved one, a prolonged illness, family member hospitalization, a wayward teen, divorce or separation, a difficult pregnancy, recent miscarriage, colicky baby, adoption, or job loss. Consider one of these gifts:
- Meals – Take Them A Meal is a service that allows you to create a meal schedule for families. Other friends, family, or their church congregation can then sign up to deliver meals to the family. This free service makes coordinating this easy and receiving the meals is such a blessing for families with new children or families who are going through a hard time.
- Maid Service
- Lawn Care
- Laundry – it may be most helpful if you pick it up from their home and deliver it back to them clean and folded instead of staying in their home while you do it.
- Errands – offering to deliver groceries, pick up dry cleaning, pick up medications at the pharmacy, get their oil changed or car washed, return library books, or any other errands that can free up some of their time and relieve them of some stress
- Gift Cards for hospital parking
- Gift Cards for Gas
- Gift Cards for Groceries
- Gift Cards for Books
- Gift Cards for Restaurants near home, work or the hospital
- Rolls of Coins for vending machines, parking and phone calls
- Keep them Busy Bags for Siblings
Gifts That Pay it Forward…
When you buy gifts for your loved ones such as a goat for a family in a developing country or mosquito nets for a family in an area where Malaria is an issue or give a donation to an organization benefitting impoverished children in the name of a loved one, you are truly paying it forward. You can tailor these gifts to the recipient. If you are giving to a child, you may want to choose a gift such as school supplies for a child in or For more ideas, here are some websites to check out:
- Operation Christmas Child – packing shoeboxes with your kids is a great way to start discussions with them about how fortunate they are and to get them to contribute to the ideas of what a child their age might like to receive.
- Samaritan’s Purse (for Canadians) – gift catalogue that includes school uniforms, feeding a child for a year, clean water, a goat or chickens for a family, and agricultural training
- Compassion (for Canadians) – gift catalogue or child sponsorship
- Compassion (for Americans) – gift catalogue or child sponsorship
- Kiva – micro loans that empower people to create a future for themselves and their families
Gifts That Give Twice…
- Bead for Life – this beautiful jewelry made by Ugandan artisans of recycled material support the women, their families and their communities. You can host a party in your home to sell the jewelry or you can buy some beautiful pieces to give to friends and support these amazing women.
- Africa Sleeps – sleep and swim caps, hair and body care – 5% goes towards Vulnerable Children Society and the rest towards raising funds for this family’s adoption from Ethiopia (they have already adopted 2 daughters from Ethiopia). These make great stocking stuffers or would be great to add to a gift basket.
- Reece’s Rainbow Angel Tree – this wonderful organization allows people to donate directly to the adoption funds of special needs orphans around the world.
- Adoption Support – buying gifts that support adoptive families in their fundraising efforts supports adoption in a tangible, practical way. You can purchase gifts such as Haitian Christmas ornaments and support adoption at the same time.
I’m joining some of the other bloggers in the iHomeschool Network to share our Christmas Gift Lists. There are many ideas shared including gifts you can make yourself, gifts that don’t cost a thing, gifts for Dr. Who fans, and more!