How do we keep Christmas from being a holiday of over-consumption? This is the question that has been on mind. The challenge has become even more poignant because my two year old son is really excited about presents. He is excited to celebrate Jesus’ birthday and birthdays mean two things: cake and presents. I started explaining to him about Advent and the Advent house that we have to help our family countdown to Christmas and celebrate Jesus’ birthday. All of the sudden it struck me how non-sensical it all is! My son gets a little present everyday because Jesus is having a birthday? I have been caught- the consumer mindset has taken over Christmas. Even though we have told the grandparents “only three presents, please”—the struggle to keep Christmas to be more than shopping is real.

The tension tears at me because I love to give gifts. Yet my hope is to raise children who are as excited to give as to receive. I love the wonder and excitement of Christmas morning but I don’t what it to be all about presents. I want to nurture and display generosity but not materialism. I think Christmas is for fun and sometimes ‘luxurious’ giving. The challenge is to eliminate the stuff and to put the gift back into giving.

How can I help my two year old give to Jesus? A true gift- like the gift of the ham that the Herdmans left for the baby Jesus at the end of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (my favorite Christmas story of all time).

I like the idea of reclaiming Santa and brining back the story of St. Nicholas. Santa is not really evil. A friend told me of a Christmas Mass where Santa shows up to bring the baby Jesus a gift. Tim and I aren’t going to tell our kids that Santa is real but the story of a man who surprises boys and girls with presents is an example of generosity. Our Santa will give gifts whether or not they have been naughty or nice. God loves you so you get presents ? It is not by my merit that God gives me good or bad things.

Christmas will always include gift giving but I am hoping to avoid over- consumption. As my young family begins to make Christmas traditions of our own I want Advent and Christmas to be full of wonder, surprise and generosity. Santa can come along for the ride.

Resources we are enjoying this year: CD Andrew Peterson Behold the Lamb of God, book: God with Us edited by Gregory Wolfe
posted by Saranell at 4:10:00 PM |


At December 21, 2007 at 6:41 AM, Blogger Jenn

It is a tight rope we have to walk, that's for sure. I am also a lover of giving. It is a part of my nature to want to give to others. We have really tried to focus on giving what people need this year vs. just buying to give. I guess the biggest thing for me has been really evaluating how I can reinforce the "giving" all year round and modelling Jesus in caring for others whenever and wherever there is a need- no matter the season.
Merry Christmas!


At December 21, 2007 at 2:01 PM, Blogger mollykf

We also have a two-year-old and are struggling to establish family traditions around Advent and Christmas that we believe in. So far, we've kept it pretty simple. We have a tree, but it only gets one ornament a day (picked by our dd out of the "waiting box"--loosely wrapped up). So I guess we're getting a present everyday because it's Jesus' birthday, but since it's for the tree, it also helps us do the waiting thing. We're waiting for the tree to actually look festive, and it gets more and more that way every time we get something out of the waiting box (when we put it on the tree, we also talk to God a little bit about whatever the ornament reminds us of).

Last year we thought a lot about the presents dilemma, not wanting to cast it away entirely, but not wanting it to be the only thing on our minds. We wrote a little liturgy for gift giving. So, we hand someone their gift and say, "I want to honor Christ by honoring you. Here is your gift." So, we honor them. It might be something they "really need" and can't afford, or (more likely) it might be something that they would never buy for themselves, but that supports the person they are right now. It's kind of another way to say "I like who you are and it's a pleasure to see you growing." Of course, other people give a lot of, well, junky unthoughtful presents that were probably made with slave labor. That's okay. Christmas consumerism is part of our broken world, and we all need to get a grip on it. We just (try) to exist within that space and choose differently. So, that's where we are so far.


At December 28, 2007 at 3:20 PM, Blogger Lisa

It's a balance for sure. I love giving and we do not buy lots of anything at any time of the year, so I do use Christmas to buy a little something special for my wonderful kids! We have settled on about three gifts--usually one larger item, one small thing and a book or CD. This is just a guide. This year our oldest received a costume that I sewed (she loves theater), a Sense and Sensibility DVD (a Jane Austen fan), and some very nice art colored pencils and sketchbook because she spends so much time drawing. That would be pretty typical of us. The boys' gifts followed a similar line. She is 13 and when she was very small of course it was all about the presents. However, they become who you model to a great extent. Now, all three spend time making or thinking of great gifts for each other. At the beginning of December I asked them to tell me which traditions are their favorites (these were the things I tried to make sure happened this year). They listed 10 things--not one of them material--a caroling party, singing each night by the tree, frosting cookies together, drinking egg nog, ice skating, getting together with some friends as we have done the last 10 years to exchange only things we already own or have made and decorate their tree, cutting down our tree and a couple of other things. We love the season as a cozy family time. I also tried heartily to avoid the stores--that's when I am tempted to buy them just one more thing.
To wrap up, I guess we have arrived at a small number of carefully selected gifts that say, "Hey, I know you and like the person that you are!"