Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

by Steve Crandall

A decade ago I wrote a letter to the editor for our local paper describing our family approach to holiday giving.  It inspired a deluge of mostly negative responses – the most humorous labeling it “unchristian”.

What we do is try to give time rather than money as that levels the playing field for all.  We choose 5 others via lottery and have a maximum budget of $100 for the lot.  Children under 10 are treated separately like normal kids.  It is considered a very “grown up” thing to do this by kids in my family.  The drawing is on the 4th of July and I usually start working on projects in August so as to not get too swamped.  I aim for 10 hours on each and have finished 3  as of last Sunday.  I have a slightly different concept of family than the rest of my family, and have a total of 7 projects this year.

My father is brilliant at this and writes special poetry.  He thinks about it all year and violates the rules by choosing some of the people he gives to (by doing more than his 5) .. so my mother is always on his list.   My skills are not great, but I make little sketches and build things. The variety of gifts I have received over the years and the thought and love that went into them has been amazing, but that doesn’t match the excitement and joy that comes with giving something that has come from my own hands.   And there is an additional bonus:  nothing to return the day after Christmas.

What is striking is that this extreme customization of feeling and love is considered out of the mainstream and “crackpot”. We aren’t doing it to save money and probably give more to charities than we would have spent on gifts.

If something this simple is considered radical and “hippy”, I fear that changing consumer patterns is extremely difficult.

Steve Crandall is a gifted scientist with a big heart. We are very fortunate to have him enrich La Marguerite with his frequent comments. You can follow him on his blog.

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The Day Before Christmas:

Last night, all my resolutions of not giving into the pressure, vanished. The deadline was becoming near, and there was no escaping. Twenty three family members were going to be present at our Christmas Eve dinner tonight, and I was not going to let them down with no gifts. 11pm, and I was still working on a list. The years before had been easy. This time, the looming reality of global warming added a new level of complexity.

In the end, I decided to hold a White Elephant party after dinner. This way, everybody would have a ‘gift’. For the children and close family members, I went out this morning and got green gifts to please my green conscience: massage certificates, recycled Patagonia fleece top, Ugg slippers, leather gloves, wool scarves, sweaters, gift certificates for iTunes and books at Borders. For all the women, I got ceramic Peace pendants from a local artisan.

Christmas Day:

Hardly any cars in the streets. I wondered why for a second. Prad reminded me that all the stores were closed. All of America was staying home to celebrate Christmas with their families.

Flashback to my youth, back in France. When each Sunday was just like today. A day when all the stores were closed, except for bakeries and pastry shops. Sunday was a day for the family to gather around the kitchen table, and enjoy a sumptuous lunch that my mother had prepared. Followed by a long walk to help us digest all that rich food.

Sure, it was a pain sometimes. We had to plan and make sure we were all set for Sunday. Otherwise we would have to make do with what we had. Or we would go borrow from our neighbors.

Back to the house, I overhear the children bitching, that ‘Everything is closed. That sucks. I want to shop.

The Day After Christmas:

Time to return presents. One of my relatives thought I would like a multicolored purse from Talbot’s. The thing is still in its box, half wrapped into its original plastic, and with its tag on. I can’t wait to dispose of it. It will not let it sit on my dresser one day longer.

The cars are back in the streets, and the mall’s parking lot. Transporting hordes of shoppers, anxious to catch the best After Christmas sales.

Green Girl Wannabe’s Christmas Chronicle

I feel almost relieved from this Not So Green Exposure. Life is back to normal, and there is something strangely comforting about this flurry of activity.

Talbot’s would not give me money back. Instead, I got a store credit. $33. I walked out happy from feeling so light. Better a tiny gift card than a big ugly bag.

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