How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss is one of my favorite Christmas cartoons. It tells the story of a bitter, green creature who lives above Whoville, a town that happily prepares for the holiday season. The Grinch doesn’t like such joy and unity and decides to steal Whoville’s gifts and Christmas trimmings. The turning point of the story is when the Grinch realizes what Christmas is all about — and it isn’t decorations or gifts. The Whos are happy and grateful despite the Grinch stealing Christmas. “Maybe Christmas,” the Grinch thought, “doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more!”
I love Christmas, but in some ways, I can relate to the Grinch. Black Friday denotes gloom to me. You’ll never find me camping outside a store before the sun comes up to save a few dollars. Holiday shopping, in general, is something I usually dread, both because of the in-your-face commercialism that can cloud the true meaning of Christmas and because of the hectic, exhausting experience of fighting the masses to find that one gift that may or may not be needed, wanted or even appreciated. In fact, my favorite Christmas gift-giving memory is when my family decided to forgo presents altogether. We pooled what money we planned to spend on each other and bought needed items (as well as a few fun items) for two residents living in a group home. Had it not been for our family playing Santa, these ladies would have had no visitors on Christmas and no gifts to unwrap. The entire experience was incredibly rewarding. It is true; it is more fun to give than to receive.
If you like the idea of alternative gift giving because it makes a difference in the lives of others, here are a few suggestions:
1. Pool family members’ money and donate to a common cause. The number of charitable opportunities is endless.
2. If you want to play Santa, buy gifts for a needy family. Ask a pastor for a referral. Or call a local nursing home, youth home or home for the developmentally or mentally disabled. Ask to be referred to residents who will not have family visiting over the holidays.
3. If you don’t have extra funds this holiday but still want to make a difference to others, get your family together and volunteer. For ideas, call your local United Way office.
4. Start a scholarship fund either for the children of your family or for a child who would not be able to go to college otherwise.
If you like the idea of alternative gift giving because it keeps you out of the shopping malls, here are a few more suggestions:
1. Get artsy. Make your gifts this year for a truly personal sentiment. Think of gifts that are edible, wearable, display-able or usable. Go one step further and wrap them in handmade wrapping paper. For ideas on how to make your holidays handmade, check out these handmade holiday ideas.
2. Like to travel? Instead of buying Christmas gifts, decide as a family to allocate money toward a trip fund. Even better, buy a plot of land on the water or in the mountains for an investment that the entire family can enjoy for generations to come.
3. Shop online. Shop from the comfort of your couch. Need I say more?
Does your family have any alternative gift giving traditions?