I don’t know when it started. Maybe it was the fact that the courthouse lawn wasn’t showcasing its usual nativity scene, or maybe it was that the kids had outgrown the wonder and awe of the season. Whatever the reason, I felt like Charlie Brown, fed up with all the commercialization of the holidays and on the verge of saying “Bah Humbug” to the next person to wish me a merry Christmas. As I was sitting at a stoplight, mentally reviewing my list of chores to do in the next two weeks and wishing for a way to chuck the whole thing, I had a flash of genius. “It’ll never work,” I thought at first, but then as my excitement grew, I knew I had stumbled onto the perfect plan. I eagerly filled my husband Eric in on the idea, and true to form he agreed it was a great idea, so united in our plan, we informed the kids of our decision.
“Skipping Christmas? You’re kidding!” Brianne, 13, was aghast. I could see her dreams of a new stereo shattering.
“Are we poor?” Ashley, 9, had participated in the church’s Angel Tree program, and had heard of a young boy whose parents couldn’t afford presents. Caleb, 16, remained silent.
After explaining my rationale, we laid down a few ground rules. Presents had to be from the heart, either intangible gifts or items created by the giver. After an hour of complaints and giving suggestions, the kids scattered to share with their friends that we had finally gone over the deep end.
The next two weeks were eventful, to say the least. Caleb wasn’t speaking to us, Brianne kept hounding us about her presents, and Ashley was praying that God would send her parents more money. Worried that I had made a mistake, I almost gave in to temptation and went shopping, but I was determined that this year would be different. If nothing else, we’d avoided going into debt for one year. Besides, we could always hit the after-Christmas sales if it turned out to be a failure.
Christmas morning came, and with it my anxiety grew. As we gathered around the tree, which looked almost barren compared to last year’s glut of shopping, I worried about my children’s reactions to my “gifts”. Since it was my idea, I began by giving Brianne my grandmother’s locket. As the kids took turns, my anxiety turned to amazement. Despite the grumbling, they’d gotten it, they understood what I was trying to say. Caleb gave Brianne his favorite shirt, one she was constantly borrowing without asking. Ashley made Eric a photo collage from school photos of all the kids. Brianne gave Ashley a “girls night out” certificate.
The gifts they gave me were even more special, because of the unexpected thoughtfulness behind them. Brianne volunteered to help out at a local food bank one Saturday a month for the next year. Caleb had donated his Christmas money to the Salvation Army’s angel tree fund. Ashley wrote me a poem that, while not on the level of Dickenson or Shakespeare, is a masterpiece to me. More important than the gifts we exchanged that day was the gift we gave our family: our love. Years have passed, we’ve all grown older, but our annual tradition of “skipping Christmas” has remained. What began as a one-time battle against the materialistic view of the holidays has become something that our family looks forward to every year. I guess the Grinch was right, Christmas really does mean a whole lot more.
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What a wonderful article and what a wonderful way to teach and pass this on to your children. Thank you for your wisdom and your boldness to go outside the 'norm' . Blessings in the wonderful matchless name of Yahshua (Jesus)!