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Ideas for a Simple Christmas

Christmas can be a peaceful time to make memories and share love or a time of unbridled consumerism.  Here are some ideas to help you keep things simple this year.

Evelyn Bean

Care Package – create a gift that take more time and effort than money and make it special to each person:

  • Notice the kinds of things your spouse or friend likes (special coffee, tea chocolates or snacks and pack them into a basket or gift bag.)
  • Take dinner to someone—cook it, take it over, join them for dinner and clean up the kitchen afterwards.  Give them a night off along with the benefit of friendship.
  • Rent a DVD, pop some popcorn and snacks and reserve a night to be company for friends, or family.
  • Give the children in your life a certificate to spend a day or weekend with each of them individually doing something that is unique or special to their unique interests.
  • Create a “craft kit” with crayons, markers, glitter, glue, staples, stickers…popsicle sticks and anything else that would be fun.

Regift – while ‘regifting’ is sometimes thought to be the cheap way out, done properly, it can be a blessing to the recipients.

  • Try the attic, basement and hidden corners of your home for heirlooms or things with sentimental value that could be passed on to your children or other family members.
  • Create a “dress up box” with cast off clothes, old gowns, costumes from past Hallloweens, flannel shirts, cowboy hats an anything else to help young children create a fantasy world of make believe.  If you don’t have these items around the house, go to places that sell used items like Goodwill.
  • For those of you with adult children, wrap up their rock collections, stamp collections, dolls, baseball cards and sports trophies and take a trip down memory lane on Christmas day when they open these special gifts from their childhood.
  • For a gift exchange with friends, set up a rule to exchange something you already own that has been a blessing to you.  When you exchange gifts, tell them how the item has blessed you, and why you decided to give it to them

Audio Messages – A recording in what ever format is a gift than can be enjoyed over and over again.

  • Make a mix of favorite music on a CD.  The music you pick should be meaningful to your relationship with the other person so they’ll think of you when they listen to it.
  • Read a selection of the child’s favorite books and record it on a CD or MP3 file. The child can listen to your voice over and over again.

Coupons for Services – Give the gift of time when you offer your services via a special coupon designed specifically for that person.

  • Give elderly relatives an invitation to your home for dinner once a month to offer them a change of routine.
  • Offer a house cleaning coupon to include dusting, mopping, and vacuuming to a new parent or elderly friend.
  • If you know the recipient has a need, create a coupon for things like painting a room, fixing the fence, planting a garden, or whatever they need to have done.

Create Memories – Everyone (young or old) seems to enjoy looking back at pictures of the past and remembering.

  • Make a memory by pulling together photos of a child as they grew up or a special family vacation or a collage of photos from Christmases past.
  • Create a memory jar by writing down favorite memories of the person receiving the gift.  Use small pieces of paper and put them in a decorated jar with instructions to open one memory every month, week or day or on some special dates throughout the year, depending on how many memories there are.
  • Select a single word that honors who they are and what they mean to you. Give them a letter telling them why you chose that special word to describe them.
  • Get photos of you and the person you’re giving the gift to, and make a personalized calendar.  Add in upcoming events and special family dates such as birthdays and anniversaries.

Food – We all have to eat, so food is always an enjoyable gift choice.

  • Make a big pot of soup and buy a good loaf of bread and deliver it. This is especially appreciated if it’s delivered when the person is frantic with holiday preparations or if they have guests.
  • Make batches of of frozen soups or casseroles, which are sized appropriately for the recipient – family size or single serving.  They can defrost and cook them for a quick meal.

Appreciate the Gifts as they are opened:

Take the focus off the gifts and concentrate on the meaning behind the gifts. Slowing down the gift opening on Christmas Day can foster an attitude of gratitude. We use a very elaborate present opening process: The children pass out the gifts to everyone. When everyone has their presents in a pile in front of them, we start with the youngest, who opens ONE present, when that one present is open, and everyone has oohhed and aahhed over it, the next oldest opens ONE present. We go through the family in rotation from youngest to oldest with each person opening ONE present when it’s their turn, till all presents are opened.

This slow process accomplishes several things. First it eliminates the ‘what’s next’ attitude when there is a big build up to Christmas presents, then and the presents take less than 5 minutes to open in a frenzy of greed.

Usually the kids get really interested in one of the presents before their next turn to open a gift, and they enjoy the gifts a lot more and they appreciate what they have instead of moving quickly to the next present.  We’ve even stopped opening presents for a few hours while they played with their gifts.

The other thing that happens is that the oldest people (usually parents and grandparents) generally have the fewest gifts and drop out of the present opening rotation earliest. This situation results in the kids being worried about how few presents mom or grandad got, so you have lots of opportunities for talking about what’s really important as far as gift giving and appreciating what they got no matter how few gifts it may be.

When you really think about it; what do want to accomplish during the Christmas season? Is it fostering an attitude of consumption or memories you can enjoy the rest of your life? Memories centered around celebrating the birth of Christ; and memories centered around helping less fortunate; and memories centered around enjoying one another.

This Christmas season, don’t let the world make you discontent with it’s focus on buying. Instead, find ways to simplify your celebration and focus on what is really important.

If you happen to find yourself shopping on Amazon.com to implement one of our ideas, please be sure to use our link. 0.5% of the price of your eligible AmazonSmile purchase will help Catholic Compass’ vision.

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