We went to a Christmas party the other night. It was fun. There was plenty of food, lots of friends and the good old white elephant gift exchange. I’ll admit that at first I balked at the $15-ish gift we were supposed to wrap and bring. After all, we’re scraping just to get our closest family some gifts this year (we chose not to budget for Christmas, but to use our own allowance money instead). I did a wonderfully frugal, or perhaps cheap, move: I wrapped a nice photo frame that I’d won in a drawing at an event earlier in the year. Gift: taken care of.
Some gifts were silly, some were nice. We had fun with it, especially the part where a person could “steal” someone else’s present. Of all the gifts opened that night, the very best one was a box of ammo. Strange, you may think, but the best part actually came in the form of an explanation by the giver: the gift also included a trip with the giver to the shooting range where the two people could spend time together and have fun. That present was stolen twice and then was no longer eligible to be stolen again. It landed with a very grateful recipient who is looking forward to sharing that special experience with the gift’s giver.
Not all Christmas gifts are this good. Sometimes in the giving of gifts we end up just giving something for the sake of giving something. I believe Christmas would be better if it didn’t revolve around stuff so much, but focused on people more.
I was waiting in line at Walmart to pay for my groceries and the lady in front of me obviously did some Christmas shopping. There were several big toys (trucks and such) and, of course, some Christmas candy, too. I found myself wondering about the kids who were going to unwrap those toys on Christmas. Do they already have a bunch of trucks and this would be just one more? Did she pick those gifts because she knows the kids and their particular likes and dislikes? Or did she just have to pick something out of obligation?
Obligation-based giving is a real bummer. It’s not nearly as gratifying as giving something you know the person would really like. But the best kind of giving doesn’t have to include any “stuff” at all. The best kind of giving is giving of a personal nature, giving of ourselves.
It was the personal aspect of that made the ammo and trip-to-the-range gift so great. Time is such a precious thing in these busy times that giving someone your time can be a wonderful gift. So, tickets to events or special places and the promise of doing it together makes these kinds of gifts especially valued. There are so many options!
- the zoo
- the movies
- a concert
- a play
- shoot some pool
- a ceramics store to paint,
- the recipient’s restaurant of choice
- play laser tag or paintball
- roller skate or ice skate
- take a tour of a place like the Jelly Belly factory
You can choose an activity to do together that really fits the recipient and his or her interests and personality.
I’ve also noticed that home-made gifts have become more popular. It’s just really neat to get something that you know the person made just for you. A knit blanket, for example, takes hours to complete and it’s nice to know that the maker was thinking of you for some of that time. Here are some other examples of home-made and, therefore, more meaningful gifts:
- jam or jelly
- caramel popcorn
- cookies (with or without the recipe included)
- a tie-dyed shirt
- a rock with “Welcome” painted on it
- a birdhouse
- a photobook
Just search online for “homemade gifts” and you can find a virtual cornucopia of different ideas.
I guess the best way to sum up the idea of taking the “stuff” out of Christmas is this: give of yourself. Give your time, your attention, your effort, your love. Isn’t that what people really want?
And, frankly, that kind of giving is what Christmas is all about. We celebrate Jesus’ birth, remembering that he was born so he could give His life for us, so we could live with Him in Heaven forever. That’s gotta be the very best gift ever! Merry Christmas!