Skipping Gifts: Why We Won't Do That Again

December 21, 2018 by

I take myself too seriously. Exhibit A: what happened to our family last Christmas:

The joyous holiday was two weeks away and my husband, Johann, and I sat down to plan what we would not do for our kids on the most joyful day of the year. We mulled over the state of the union: our four-year-old was cast in a coveted role in the kindergarten Christmas play. The first grader had a soprano solo in the school play and the third grader was excited about playing Christmas songs on the recorder. At home they were completely swept up by the spirit of Christmas, feverishly winding yarn stars and folding paper ones for the tree we had just stood up in the corner of our living room.

My husband is a computer programmer so he tends to approach life with yes/no, if/then statements. If something isn’t broken, why fix it? In other words, could adding gifts and toys to the formula possibly make things happier or bring more peace to our neck of the woods? So we decided on lots of oranges in the stockings to combat the seasonal sniffles, but no presents under the tree, and we’d instead spend Christmas caroling at the homeless shelter.

Christmas is not so much about gifts or no gifts. Christmas is a lot bigger than that.

The kids didn’t even notice the absence of presents. There wasn’t time and there were so many carols to practice. We arrived in Uniontown laden with penny whistles, guitars, recorders, and plenty of drummer boys with drums and shakers. City Mission had set up a beautiful tree and as folks arrived we played one carol after the next. The tree lighting was just as it should be, lighting up the eyes of many children who had no family, came from the street, and were living in a “home” until they were eighteen. We made new friends over Christmas dinner, listened to a short Christmas message about the shepherds, and then came Santa and his gifts, care of the generosity of local businesses.

It was late winding up, but before we could go, the organizer bustled over and cheerfully entreated each of my kids to choose a present from under the tree, as there were so many left. So as not to offend, I let them go. And go they did. Their deliberations were long and painful. All the plush, oversized teddies and doggies were crying, “Take me, take me!”

drawing of a house done by a childDrawing by one of the author's kids

My kids left the shelter, arms full of brand new stuffed toys, oblivious to their eye-rolling parents. In the end we had a long laugh over the irony of it all. But, seriously, how do we protect our kids from the perils of abundance? (Wow, this is an embarrassingly first-world question.)

I don’t have any profound take-away moral (I guess “don’t look a gift bear in the mouth” is too trite), just the revelation that it’s really good to be able to laugh at yourself. Sure, my kids ended up with stuff they really didn’t need in spite of my best efforts, but I’ve realized that Christmas is not so much about gifts or no gifts. Just as the Grinch discovered that you can celebrate without presents, I’ve found that material gifts are also not a roadblock to Christmas. Christmas is a lot bigger than that.


About the author


Jordanna Bazeley

Jordanna Bazeley lives at Danthonia Bruderhof in Australia with her husband, Johann, and their four children.

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