Christmas Without Presents

12/02/13

"You want to do what?" 

 
My family had just decided to do Christmas without presents. Some of us were taking it better than others. 
 
And though I was one of the ones who had suggested it in the first place, I have to admit, I had a lot of fears.
 
Giving material gifts seemed strange when so many children need basic things
Giving material gifts to each other at Christmas seemed strange when so many children around the world would be grateful for just a meal on Christmas Day. But I still had my fears about giving up gifts at Christmas. 
 
See, Christmas is my absolute favorite time of the year. I love the lights, the songs, the family get-togethers. Secret Santa is my favorite game ever, and gift-giving has always been very elaborate in my family. 
 
So when I thought about Christmas without presents, my biggest fear was that it just wouldn't be as fun. It wouldn't have the same memories, and it wouldn't carry on the same tradition. The fun and anticipation of picking out gifts (and/or scrambling around madly on Christmas Eve for that last present) would die. 
 
My family had had a rough year, and we were spread out all around the United States. Between airfare and all the other expenses we had that year, we decided that being together was going to be our only present to each other. 
 
And somehow, miraculously, it was one of the best Christmases ever. 
 
All of a sudden the time we normally spent buried in wrapping paper and ribbons was free. We talked, played games, went for a walk. Not that we didn't do that before, but when this was all we had, it was somehow richer. 
 
Spending time together seemed richer after my family quit focusing on gifts
          Spending time together at Christmas seemed somehow richer after my family stopped focusing on gifts. 
 
It turns out that the ol' Grinch who stole Christmas was right after all. Christmas does not come from a store. Without the paper and tinsel, you are left with each other—and Christ. And when that is all you have, they are all the more meaningful.
 
My family has done Christmas sans presents every year since. Every fall, someone suggests we go back to gifts. But every year we've decided not to. 
 
Last year I folded a bit and gave everyone a gift from the Children of the Nations Christmas Gift Catalog. It felt like a way to still be giving, just not material gifts. My husband and I picked out something we thought each person would like—counseling services for children for my sister studying to be a psychologist, a lay pastor's salary for my pastor sister, and for some reason, a pig for my parents. 
 
One of these three pigs on COTN's farm may be the one I got for my parents
   One of these three pigs on COTN's farm in Sierra Leone might be from the gift I gave my parents last Christmas.
 
There's nothing wrong with giving gifts at Christmas—it is a beautiful, generous way to express Christ's love.  But you can take my word for it, or you can try it yourself—Christmas without material gifts brings great joy!
 
Check out the Christmas Gift Catalog for more gift ideas!