Gifts are a huge part of Christmas, of course. I won’t even pretend to be an authority on gift giving. For one thing, I come from the “if I can’t order it from Amazon, you’re not getting it” school of lazy shopping. (Though there are exceptions – keep reading.) For another, every year I promise myself I will stay sane and focused, and every year I kind of end up buying just one extra gift for someone – which then becomes an extra one for everyone else.
I grumble, but I do love coming downstairs on Christmas morning to a tree piled high with gifts. When you have as many people in the house as we will, that isn’t difficult But here, in no particular order, are some of my favorite guidelines for gifting.
• A long time ago, I came across this little poetic guide to gift giving: Something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read. I love that approach. It covers all the bases and keeps things manageable. Maybe this is the year I’ll actually abide by it.
• Wish lists. Everyone in my family knows that their choices are to either make up a wish list or face a Christmas morning filled with novelty tee shirts and gift cards. I ask for these in early November and – this part is crucial – give people a deadline for getting them to me. Yep, call me the Christmas Hardass.
• I’m a big fan of gifts that give to others –donations to charitable causes in someone’s name. I’ve sent donations to such organizations as Doctors Without Borders, Heifer International, the Tim Horton Children’s Foundation, and the Alliance for Children Foundation. But one of my favorites is Kiva – an organization that offers micro-loans to individuals in the US and the developing world. Everyday men and women can receive loans to help them provide indoor plumbing for their kids, buy supplies to start a store, or purchase livestock. The loans are repaid slowly and then you (the lender) can lend them out again. There are many reasons why I like this, but the biggest one is that if you wish, you can choose the person who will receive your loan (starting as low as $25). I tend to go for women with lots of kids. Go figure.
• Years ago, in an effort to make the kids be more mindful of Christmas morning instead of treating it as a free-for-all frenzy of ripping paper, we added treasure hunts to the routine. Each kid had to go on a quest to find their big gift from Santa. One clue got wrapped up and placed beneath the tree. Subsequent clues led them all around the house until they found the gift. It’s become harder and harder to dream up clues that will challenge these smart-asses of mine, but they still love the hunts and are aghast if I suggest skipping.
Christmas can be a lot of work, no doubt about it, but it can also lead to some of our most treasured family times. When it all starts to feel overwhelming, I pop a chocolate and remind myself that we’re building memories and traditions. Sometimes that even helps
In closing, here’s one of my favorite Christmas songs, by the late great Stan Rogers. I think he’s singing for many of us here.