"The manner of giving is worth more than the gift." ~Pierre Corneille
After reading a book my daughter-in-law gave me called A Year Without Made In China", I was inspired. "Let's do something different for gift-giving this year." After discussing it, our family decided to go with a "used" theme. I referred to it as our "Green Christmas" because we were to recycle previously owned items. The rule was, "no new purchases". We could buy gifts at yard or estate sales, flea markets, thrift or antique shops, or give away something we already owned.
My daughter and I spent countless Saturdays combing through items at yard sales within a ten mile radius of our home. We visited our local thrift stores on a regular basis. When we found something we thought might make a good gift, we brought it home, wrapped it, and set it upstairs in our attic.
Christmas Eve I trotted up to our attic, confident that we had created a generous collection of unusual gifts. As I began to lug them downstairs for their placement under our tree, I was astonished by the amount of loot we had accumulated. Dozens and dozens of packages crowded around our tree and overflowed into the living space of our small living room.
My own shock paled in comparison to the reactions we got on Christmas morning as our family descended upon us. Clearly, we had our work cut out for us! Hours of gift-opening was accompanied by much laughter, surprised reactions to the high quality of some of the presents, and appreciation for the people that each gift represented.
Why do I share this? Because it was memorable. It challenged us to think beyond the traditional shopping methods and think outside the box. It caused us to be more thoughtful and deliberate in our purchases. I spent way more time throughout the year thinking about each person and what they might like to receive. It also brought to light the waste we are so casual about. Items that someone paid full price for, we were able to purchase for a buck or two simply because they weren't "new". I had to pause and think about the number of things we spend our hard earned money on, things that will one day meet the same fate.
We did spend a lot less money on gifts that year. Instead, we invested more time, thought, and consideration. And isn't that what gift-giving is all about?
The whole experience challenged and changed my perspective in many ways ~ how I spend money, the whole tradition of gift-giving, and the emphasis I want to have during this season. As much as we enjoy the stockings and the presents, it's really about love ~ for our family, our relatives, our friends, and the One who came to earth, whose birth we celebrate. For me, that's what Christmas is all about.
"To perceive Christmas through its wrappings becomes more difficult with every year." ~Elwyn Brooks White