Holly Jolly?

Congratulations. If my math skills are correct (which they usually aren't) you have 153 shopping days left until Christmas. That's right. In five short months, your family will be racing through hallways and tearing off wrapping paper and telling Aunt Myrtle "thanks" for the set of polyester pajamas that she sent.

Christmas. The whole idea is that we're celebrating the birth of the Christ child, right? Over the years, we became sidetracked by the shiny bobbles and Santa-themed wrapping paper, and Christ's arrival on Earth was lost behind the new toys and trinkets, the company Christmas parties, and the spiked punch that is sometimes required to get through the family reunions.

As I've gone on this journey of simplifying, I've found myself thinking a lot about the idea of gift giving. Don't get me wrong, there's not much I look forward to more than opening presents with Peter on Christmas morning, but something has been gnawing at me since last year when my family exchanged "stocking stuffers".

As we all sat around my parent's living room and pulled out gift cards to the same restaurant, I half-jokingly said, "So, we all just exchanged money to the same place - maybe we should have just gone out to eat instead." Everyone chuckled and then moved on to the next gift card in the stocking.

However, I continued to think about this idea of exchanging money in the form of gift cards - what was the point? It started because we all announced that we were trying to clean out. We didn't need or want another thermal tumbler, holiday mug, or wind-up flashlight. The sweaters, candle holders, and scented soaps that you spent good money on, all went out in the yard sale last month.

Although we've discussed foregoing the exchanging of gifts this year, and using the money to take a trip instead, everyone wants to go somewhere different and we range in age from 4 to 71, so you can see the dilemma. While some folks truly enjoy exchanging gifts (real gifts, not gift cards), others would rather take a trip with their immediate family over the holidays.

We've held out the lofty idea of using the money that we would have spent on each other, to buy a goat in Africa or a bicycle for a missionary in Asia, but the fact of the matter is - we do that anyway. My parents raised us to understand that money was just a tool from God, and we were to be good stewards of it and use it to help others. To my knowledge, we all support missionaries or pack shoeboxes or buy bee hives in Jesus name. And then on top of that, we give gift cards to each other. It's never been an either-or situation. 

As I watch both my parents and my siblings age, I realize that there will come a year when we won't see each other at all during the holidays. Some, because they live elsewhere, and others, because they won't be with us anymore. I think that's one of the reasons why the trip idea appeals to me, or simply going out to dinner as a family instead of exchanging gift cards so we can go out individually.

For me, it has really become about the time spent together, the fellowship over a well-prepared meal, the photos taken during a shared experience, and the memories that will remain when we're no longer together. At 30, I now realize that the people have become more important to me than the gifts that they give.

How do YOU handle holiday gift giving?


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