Get out your wallet: the holiday season is here. Retailers everywhere have been preparing us for this great season of spending for months, some even putting out Christmas decorations on the 5th of July. Culture trains us that the holiday season is about giving the latest and greatest gadgets and piles of toys.
Caught in this culturally induced conundrum, I have been looking for ways to avoid the Stuff Trap that Christmas has become. My children already have loads of toys they don’t play with and we certainly don’t need to add exponentially to the mounds. I decided to follow a well traveled path, laid down by Charles Dickens in A Christmas Carol. Unfortunately, no ghosts accompanied me.
Christmas Past: the magical memories of childhood
Growing up, our family of six lived on one income. As a budget conscious mom, I look back on that time now and truly admire my parents’ ability to stretch a dollar and create Christmas traditions that I will never forget. Some of the greatest moments in my past Christmas celebrations didn’t have anything to do with what was under the tree or in my stocking. In fact, I only remember a few specific presents. Most of the lasting memories I have are of giving, family and food.
My dad was (and still is) a teacher. Because of this, he knew which kids in our school came from families that were struggling financially. He knew how many kids they had and what their general needs were. We would all sit down and he would tell us about a family we were going to surprise that year.
Next, we would shop. My parents bought double of everything that they were getting for our Christmas dinner. It was never anything too fancy, just the traditional turkey or ham (whichever was on special), potatoes, cranberries, vegetables, pie and milk. After we had all of the groceries, we bought presents for the kids. These presents usually included items like toothbrushes, candy and a new toy. We wrapped the presents and put all the groceries in either large bags or boxes. Delivery night was the best part.
Around the 21st of December, we got to stay up past our regular bed-time. Loaded in the car, we pulled up near the drop-house and stealthily brought everything we had prepared from our car, quietly setting them right in front of the door. Then, we all made sure we were in the getaway car except for dad; he would knock on the door and escape to the car before they saw us. Sometimes we would catch a glimpse of the parents opening the door and looking confused. Other times we didn’t see anything.
These gifts were always anonymous and we were never told thank you, but through this simple act, my parents taught me that Christmas is really about generosity. It was those years that my family lived out the scripture that it is more blessed to give than receive.
Check back next week for a look at Christmas Present and some tips on how to stretch a small budget for a great holiday.