I dont know where it started by keara


									Alternative Gift Ideas: (for the FORUM on Dec 9) I don‟t know where it started. It was either my disillusionment with tons of children‟s Christmas gifts, or my newfound interest in the Benedictines and their simple ways. I looked in the garage and realized that we still had unopened Christmas gifts from the year before stacked in the corners and it was July! My children hadn‟t had an interest in opening gifts even on Christmas Day due to the plethora they had received the night before at their grandparents‟. But the Benedictines- they were simple people. They worked, prayed, studied and played; it was all balanced. How to bring that to my own life? I could hear echoes of my mother lamenting the fact that my aunt never bought her children many gifts at Christmas. And the pride in mom‟s voice when she told of all of the gifts we‟d peeled open on that morning reserved for celebrating the birth of Jesus. The “things” meant something to her. As I grew older I realized that life wasn‟t about “things” but people. My children may be young, but my husband and I decided (based on a story we‟d heard from friends), Jesus only received three gifts so that was good enough for our kids, too. We attempted to have a gold, frankincense and myrrh, Christmas. It turned into a gold, frankincense, and myrrh-- and v-tech and clothing -Christmas. There has to be something more, I thought. So, I started reading about how to simplify my life. I began with Elaine St. Clair‟s Simplify Your Life and then Katrina Kenison‟s Mitten Strings for God. I devoted the next four years to reading about simplicity in life and through the holidays. The Lord moved me through text after text to teach me one lesson after another about wanting less and doing more for others. That, I discovered, was the key to a fulfilling holiday season. It has been a long road and we‟re making progress slowly. This year my husband and I convinced his family (with 13 grandchildren) to draw names rather than buy gifts for each child. And we dropped the “adult gifts.” On my side, my sisters and I buy one small gift per child and put something in the college funds of the nieces and nephews if we feel we need to “spend more”. Holidays are about time with family and friends, but most important, this is a time to focus on Christ and his gift of life to us. I have found many different resources for simplifying Christmas. The website www.newdream.org has ideas for doing just that and preserving our environment as well. Check out their “Simplifying the Holidays” brochure to help you get started. What Your Children Want That Money Can’t Buy is also available on the website. Another wonderful resource is www.simpleliving.net May you and your family have a blessed and peaceful Christmas holiday! -Jennifer Walsh

Other parishioners shared ideas of alternative ways to celebrate Christmas: Several years ago I realized it wasn‟t a gift I wanted from my family, it was a relationship them. We were living all over the country, rarely saw each other and spent little time considering who they were or what they were about. We resolved this problem by giving gifts about ourselves. Each sibling creates identical gifts for the other siblings and their families that tell something about one‟s self and the year that has just past. Over the years we have made: a photo album about a typical day; a CD of favorite songs and their meaning in our lives; an Advent calendar with family pictures under the doors; a Monopoly game chronicling family places and happenings; and placemats created from family pictures. One year my brother sorted and scanned my parents‟ slides and set them to music for posterity. One year each family sent a package to a soldier serving abroad, and included in the package a letter about the giving family. These letters were shared with other family members as a gift about ourselves. Last year we sent Spanish children‟s books to an orphanage in

Guatemala where my niece had worked. The gift about ourselves was a letter included with the books and shared with all explaining why each book was chosen. This year we are donating to a local food pantry. We don‟t yet have the tie-in about ourselves. Any ideas? -Mary Ellen White

When my son was about 4 years old he was overwhelmed with Christmas gifts from family, the cumulative effect of which seemed to be a mountain of packaging to sit in landfills for years to come, and the need for us to rent a storage locker to house all the new toys. Before finishing, my son looked up and asked, “Can I be done with presents now?” We have a different family tradition now: Grandparents give a card and a check to the kids at Christmas (sometimes accompanied by a small gift) and we use the money for a fun family outing. We take lots of pictures and send a big thank you to our generous family members. The memories that we‟ve created and the fun we‟ve had along the way are priceless. And no more packaging for the landfills! –Kelly Gauthier Dan and Cindy Lefeld “want to celebrate the birth of Christ, not Santa Claus.” They look for ways to live the gospel during the holidays. This year they are making scarves and Christmas cards for the women‟s shelter and collecting winter clothing, scarves and gloves for the homeless in Ann Arbor.

Chuck and Patti Yonka give family members a choice of four or five charities (for example, Catholic Relief Services, Heifer International, UNICEF, Habitat for Humanity or local groups that may be the special collection that month) and then make a donation in their name. “People like this because they get to choose where the money will be donated rather than being told that money was donated in their name. Choice is important. And some agencies provide a card that you can download and print out to send to people that you have donated in the name of.”

Dick Brown asks others to give to one of his favorite charities in his name. This helps him support organizations that he believes in. It also helps his family and friends learn more about his values and what‟s important to him, which brings them closer. Doing good in the world and bringing people closer to their loved ones is what Christmas is all about! Shirley Hogan offers the idea of letting the world have December 25 – “call it Santa Day”. Then Christians everywhere can celebrate Christ‟s birthday in January, maybe on the date that the Greek Orthodox celebrate Christmas. In the meantime, she also suggests that gifts can be limited to a designated amount (say, $10) to help avoid overspending.

Katie Jackel suggests a gift from The Heifer Foundation, which helps families around the world. If you go to www.heifer.org and click on „give‟ (then „gift catalog‟), you can read about the different animals that can be purchased to help people around the world become self-reliant. My 92-year old Grandmother is in a nursing home and does not need or want material things, so we purchase a flock of chicks in her name. Our children are involved in this process, so they understand the meaning of giving the chicks to a family. For $20, you can purchase a flock of chicks or ducks. For $10, you can purchase a share of a pig, goat or sheep. Another great idea: many people are not sure what to purchase for people and/or they do not want to spend a lot of money on material objects. An idea is to purchase multivitamins as gifts. It is well-established that people should take multivitamins, but not everyone does. For $12, you can buy a 3-month supply of vitamins at the Vitamin Shoppe on Washtenaw Avenue and can help

someone become a little healthier. I purchase vitamins each year for a friend of mine who is a priest in Indianapolis. It shows that I care about his health.

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