I hate shopping. Malls overwhelm me. Department stores suffocate me. I try to shop as much as I can online. Heidi hates shopping about as much as I do. I’d prefer cleaning bathrooms. Heidi would rather rake leaves. So what did we do with Christmas? It was a struggle for a long time. A lot of stress, worry, fear of failure. A lot of ought’s and have to’s. Little giving from the heart. So several years ago, Heidi came up with an idea. Let’s cut back on the gifts in our family and use the money for a trip together.
It was brilliant. Everybody got a couple of gifts they really needed. No more stuff. No more catering to materialistic social pressure. As a bonus, Heidi and I felt the stress meter drop. Christmas became quieter, more enjoyable. But the biggest present of all was what the trips did. We were together for a few days doing something we would have never done before. And we even did it in an inexpensive way.
One year we got cheap plane tickets to Chicago and saw Wicked on stage. Last year we got a holiday special at the Opryland Hotel here in Nashville, meandered in awe through the gardens, and shivered in amazement through the ice exhibit. This year we just returned from two nights at a cabin in Pickett State Park, TN. No cell phone or internet service. We hiked fascinating trails, viewed incredible rock formations, and watched movies at night.
Guess what we talk about each Christmas now? The presents we got the year before? That memory is buried or lost. We just remember the trips together. It is the gift that keeps on giving.
Here’s one more idea I came up with last year. I put some money in an envelope and stuck it on the tree. Then we spent time as a family on Christmas Day figuring out which organizations to support and how much to give to each one. It was fun. And freeing. When Jesus said that it was more blessed to give than to receive, it’s not just a nice slogan. He meant it.
So if you don’t like the way your family does Christmas, take a risk and do something different. Try what I have suggested or come up with your own. The worst you can do is fail. The best? Your family feels a glimmer of that joy everyone is searching for at Christmas.