If there is one thing that takes the edge off our Christmas joy, it’s the pressure of the consumer culture to give better, more unique, and thoughtful presents for an increasing multitude of people.
No matter how much we criticize the materialistic values that dominate Christmas, every year, we get sucked into the eleventh hour madness of shopping till midnight.
A New Idea
One of our best Christmas’ as kids, was the year we cancelled all material presents and instead gave gifts of service and affirmation. We undertook to write a letter to each family member telling them what we loved and appreciated about them. We included a ‘gift voucher’ which might have been a pledge to do some babysitting, or to take an extra turn at the washing up, or to pray every day for a week for a special need. Some vouchers were a pledge not to tease or criticize (these were tough to deliver on!).
Living the Christmas Spirit
This process had an amazing impact. Even before we had exchanged our gifts. Instead of spending hours in the shopping centre, we spent the time in quiet reflection thinking about how much each person meant in our lives. We felt a heightened awareness of the preciousness of each family member. And as we racked our brains thinking about what to put in our gift vouchers, we learnt what it is to be truly other-centred in our giving. No giving the gift we would most like. We really had to think about what that person would most appreciate.
Whatever it was, we tailored the gift to something that was uniquely for that person. Of course the other important advantage was the packaging – or lack of it. We chuckled as we watched our neighbours flattening the endless boxes in an attempt to get them into the garbage bins. Turns out, there was another gift we could offer – the use of our spare garbage space!!!
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Francine & Byron Pirola are the founders and principal authors of the SmartLoving series. They are passionate about living Catholic marriage to the full and helping couples reach their marital potential. They have been married since 1988 and have five children.
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