“Christmas is the season when you buy this year’s gifts with next year’s money. Let us make this year different and fill it with gifts of meaning!” ~Author Unknown
By Marion Algier – The War on Christmas (and religion) verses the Spirit of Christmas Series at AskMarion – 18
If at all possible the best physical Christmas gifts for children is getting them what they asked Santa for. The toy or wish that got away is most often the reason cited by most people as the point in time when they stopped believing in Santa or sometimes even in the joy and spirit of Christmas, unless they are versed in the real reason for the season. Receiving the main gift they ask Santa for both extends their belief in him and cements their joy for future Christmases as well as their future memories. Then add some extras that will teach your children, help or expose them to something positive. But the best long term gift(s) for children is establishing and maintaining traditions and making sure that at least part of your holiday is spent on discussing or participating in activities that revolve around the true meaning or reason for the Christmas season. But sometimes our budget just doesn’t meet our children’s wishes or our expectations… So then what do you do? Checkout the following great story:
Running With Scissors: In the winter of 1986, life was good. I was a single mother with one adorable, healthy, blond-haired, blue-eyed boy; I had a good job; I had a not-so-good second job; I had a fixer-upper house; and I had one spoiled rotten Doxie dog. Norman Rockwell might not have been impressed with the broken-down white picket fence in the back yard, but I thought of my life as having “good bones.” A little sanding, some spackle, a new coat of paint and everything would be perfect.
Money being a bit on the short-side, Christmas was something I planned long-range. The clerks at the lay-away counters at WalMart and K-Mart knew me by name. Of course, the best-laid plans of Santa’s helpers can and do go awry from time to time. This year I was completely blind-sided by an animatronic, story-telling bear called Teddy Ruxpin. About three weeks before Christmas, my son, Derek, started talking incessantly about this Teddy Ruxpin toy, so I checked it out to see if it could be worked into The Grand Christmas Plan. I was horrified to discover this new must-have toy was a whopping $75 ( a lot of money in those days)! No way was this going to fit into the budget. Period. But this was all my precious baby could talk about, and I couldn’t afford it. I was crushed.
As I cruised the toy department hoping and praying I could come up with a suitable substitute, my eyes were drawn to a tiny stuffed bear, wearing a stocking cap and a Christmas sweater. I picked him up, adjusted his little sweater and stood there looking at him and, as I did, a New Plan suddenly came to me.
On Christmas Eve, after my son set out the requisite cookies and milk for Santa and finally went to sleep, I set my New Plan in motion. It was risky, but I thought it just might work. I retrieved the tiny bear from his hiding spot, and I sat down at the kitchen table and composed a note. A note from Santa to Derek. It went something like this:
Thank you for coming to visit me in the park and giving me your Christmas list. I know you asked for a Teddy Ruxpin toy, but I have been looking all over trying to find the perfect boy to take care of this little Christmas bear. He is very special and he needs a very special boy to take care of him. You have been such a good boy this year I know you are the only boy I can trust to give him the special care he needs. I hope you love him as much as I do. Merry Christmas!
I finished setting up the rest of the toy delivery from Santa, set Special Bear on top and tucked the note under one fuzzy little leg. And, yeah, there might have been a tear or two. I crossed my fingers, looked up at the ceiling, and went to bed.
The next morning, Derek bounded into the living room, and I stood back and watched. He picked up Special Bear, saw the note, and brought it to me to read to him. I read the note, took a deep breath and looked up at him. And this is what I saw.
Like magic, it was as if all thoughts of Teddy Ruxpin were gone. He was never mentioned again.
And, yes, Special Bear still lives. Every year since, he has occupied a place of honor in our home at Christmas and a special spot in our hearts. I always smile, give him a hug and adjust his sweater when I unpack him and remember that Very Special Bear Christmas. And, every year after Christmas, he is lovingly snuggled into his bubble wrap, placed in his special box and packed away.
I always knew there would come a time when Special Bear would get passed to a grandchild and, after some discussion, it was decided the time has come for Special Bear to work his Christmas magic for my precious granddaughter. So, I gave Special Bear a booster-shot of love with one more hug, triple-bubble-wrapped him and placed him in a new box for his journey, along with two pictures I found of that special morning. Just so my son will know which box Special Bear is in, I did this. Think I overdid it?
And, when they ask me at the Post Office if I want insurance on this package, I’ll laugh, because you can’t put a price tag on what’s in that box. Christmas is not about the Teddy Ruxpins. It’s about the love and the Special Bear places in your heart.
Stuffed Bear – $4.99
Pictures & Frames – $24.95
Magical, twinkly, smiley, love-filled, makes-you-teary-eyed memories – PRICELESS
One word of advice though – take LOTS and LOTS of pictures, because you never know when a Special Bear moment will happen.
“Oh, would that Christmas lasted the whole year through, as it ought,” Charles Dickens lamented. “Would that the spirit of Christmas could live within our hearts every day of the year.” And this sentiment could be the best gift you give yourself as well as someone you know or know of that is in need! The Best Part of the Christmas Season is Love, Charity, and Kindness. Why not cut back on excess food and extravagant gifts and help a friend, a family (or family member) or a stranger in need? Whoever has two coats should share with someone with none. -Luke 3:11
Sometimes one of the toughest gifts is one for the parents or grandparents. It certainly depends on your budget, and you definitely want to show your gratitude, respect and love for them in an appropriate and special way. In case they are fond of pets, a pet is a great gift to help them cope with loneliness or boredom, whether you choose to buy a puppy or a senior dog or cat who needs a home for them, along with sufficient food for the pet. Or if your budget allows you can plan an exclusive romantic holiday for the two of them or a great evening out. Or you can go the other way and buy the latest technology like an inclusive LCD TV or laptop so that they can spend their time meaningfully. You can take them to the best (or their favorite) restaurant in the town to treat them with their favorite cuisine after watching a good movie together. It would be wonderful to order a personalized calendar containing the photographs of your parents in various moments of their lives or of your family or all the grandchildren. In case both of your parents or grandparents are bookworms you can gift them volumes of selected classics or the latest releases in the areas they enjoy. Or it would be really classy to find an antique clock or table lamp to enrich their décor.
And there are the gifts that come from the heart type that often take up more time than money to give. Or sometimes a lot of both, but in the end are the most meaningful… They include homemade gifts like baked goods, recipe jars, handmade ornaments, family cookbooks, scrapbooks, organized photo albums, digital photo frames filled with images or single reproduced and framed special photos, traditional Christmas Music CD’s like Johnny Mathis or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir or movies like Miracle on 34th Street or any of the Best Holiday Movie Classics (hopefully to watch or listen to together), a book or family history written by you, a piece of art, a family heirloom handed down, a great home-cooked meal… and the list goes on since all our hearts are different.
But the greatest gift is togetherness and some true conversation including the subject of what Christmas is really all about!
How to Simplify Your Christmas Shopping
A friend of mine emailed me the following article: Achieved a lifetime ambition; finishing all my Christmas shopping, wrapping and mailing by December 1st
The author said that the trick is to use one of several (four) formulas or a combination thereof to do your shopping, rather than going crazy trying to be all things to all people as you devastate your bank account. I think that most of us can relate to the drained holiday bank account stretching from Halloween to New Years!!
The suggestions included a few of the following 10 categories:
- The easiest one, if time and lack of imagination are bigger factors than money, is to ask everyone what they want and just get it.
- Give everyone the same gift or at least split them into four or five types: one for the girls, one for the older gals, one for the boys, one the big boys and one for the pets.
- There is my least favorite which is giving everyone money or a gift card and unless you don’t mind being embarrassed, it ends up being the most impersonal while usually ending up costing you the most… or is right up there.
- Another is to give everyone a ‘what the heck is this’ gift or the white elephant method, good for a laugh and some conversation?!? But pretty much a total waste of money and only for those who really believe that it is the thought (or the lack of thought) that counts!
- Then there is the true budget conscious method suggesting you set a standard price per gift and don’t waiver or just re-gift in extra nice wrapping.
- There is the giving the gifts that matter method or ‘of need’, which includes bags of groceries, needed shoes and clothing items, pay someone’s utility bill or car payment or supplying some other needed help.
- There are the gifts of knowledge that are investments in someone, even when they don’t quite get it. It could be paying for a trip or camp, sending someone to a special class or program or tickets to the theatre, a copy of the Bible, the Constitution or an important book or books, or it could be a learning game, a transformational movie, a camera, movie camera or a computer. (Give the gift of a real book not an online copy, board games not games on the Wii and gifts that will inspire and make people interact… talk and think.) There is a growing trend to move back to traditional toys like Legos, Duplos, trains, baby dolls, clay, books you can read to the little ones or discuss with the older kids, etc. Less electronics are better!!
- Or how about the gift of love and sharing. Adopt a military family and make it family project. Volunteer to serve meals at the nearest mission or rescue. Take the family to the shelter and adopt a pet who needs a forever loving home, or volunteer to be a pet foster parent. Bake cookies for prisoners. Pick a tag from the tree at church or at work and give an angel gift or gifts. Invite a lonely neighbor over for Christmas dinner.
- And finally (again) there is the gift from the heart type of gifts that often take up more time than money to give. But from my experience, sometimes they take a lot of both, but in the end are the most meaningful… They include homemade gifts like baked goods, recipe jars, handmade ornaments, family cookbooks, scrapbooks, organized photo albums, digital photo frames filled with images or single reproduced and framed special photo, traditional Christmas Music CD’s like Johnny Mathis or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir or movies like Miracle on 34th Street or any of the Best Holiday Movie Classics (hopefully to watch or listen to together), a book or family history written by you, a family cookbook, a piece of art, a family heirloom handed down, a great home-cooked meal… and the list goes on since all our hearts are different.
Some of these gifting methods require some real creativity; some take real guts, and others require an investment of the heart. But what we choose to give often says a lot about us.
There are some great books out for Christmas this year: ‘Good Tidings and Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas’ (Kindle), The Romney Family Table: Sharing Home-Cooked Recipes & Favorite Traditions (Kindle) and Dear Chandler, Dear Scarlett: A Grandfather’s Thoughts on Faith, Family, and the Things That Matter Most (Kindle) Plus: Losing Our Religion(Kindle) by atheist S. E. Cupp
MERRY CHRISTMAS! God bless us all, every one!