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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

De-commercializing Christmas


I thought I'd continue the discussion about changing how we do Christmas. I'm still thinking through this practically, so I do a lot of thinking out loud on this blog. And I really, REALLY have enjoyed your personal stories and tips you've shared. Keep them coming! I will share some suggestions and sites to go to for them in this post.
So just to recap, why are we changing how we do Christmas? Not because giving gifts is evil or material things are wrong. I don't want anyone to feel condemned by these posts! This is a personal journey for our family, and the extended Seay family, as we give more globally to those in need and realize how excessive our lives are. My brother Brian is in the process of adopting from Africa. All of my brothers are heavily involved in organizations like Compassion and Living Water. The ripple effect is felt in our family. It touches us at the core of our relationship to God and it must change us.
So we've decided to give more handmade gifts, spend less money on Christmas gifts, and give cheerfully and thoughtfully, but less from the wallet. We are joining so many others in Advent Conspiracy, so that money will go to Living Water, doing amazing work for the gospel and saving lives!
A LOT of people complain about the commercialism and hectic, carnal season that Christmas has become. But what are our ideas to reclaim Christmas? I want to not complain, but generate change. We can buy a "Jesus is the reason for the season" lapel pin and wear it everyday, but what does that mean? I feel an urgency in knowing, because my kids are in their formative years, and we are laying the foundation for who they are and what they think. I also desperately want to please the Lord with my heart's intentions. I want to do this right. Mainly, I want my kids to think back on Christmas, and remember worship and rest and enjoyment and reflection, and not immediately go to presents. When we talk about "doing Christmas" that usually means presents. I know that our propensity to love money and be greedy is great, and God abhorrs it according to the Bible, so I want to guard against that in our family.
But how?
First, we are thinking a lot about what we are making for people we love, and then putting time and energy into those gifts. It only takes one day of madness Christmas shopping (where people will literally sell their children to you and eat yours for the cheap TV/DVD players on special at Wal-Mart...what a way to celebrate Jesus) and a moment for me to whip out my credit card to check someone off the list of MUST BUYS for Christmas gifts. Some of you love to shop. I DO NOT. So this is a much more expressive way for us to give.
Secondly, two things we have prohibited.
1. Looking at catalogues and commercials. The catalogues are coming in the mail daily, and they feed my kids' desires for things they don't need. I have one child in particular who is obsessed with catalogues, because his greatest sin tendency is the love of money (stuff!) and he struggles with this constantly. (I also have children who are oblivious to stuff, so we have to really know our kids). I have to be wise in what I let him look at and think about. If I didn't limit things like commercials and catalogues, he would lie awake all night and think about the things he wants and talk about it constantly. The desire for something new can never be satisfied. That's how greed works. So I have outlawed catalogues. They have to go in the trash immediately. We zip past commercials on DVR. We should know enough by now to avoid temptation and stay far away from the things that draw us into sin.

2. We don't allow Christmas lists. This is something I heard from Heather a few years ago, and it makes perfect sense. We ask our kids to make a greed list at Christmas. We know they need nothing, and some of them can't even think of what they want because they are so saturated with possessions. For some reason, we think it's cute when they're little. (I don't know why.) But it's not cute for long. And I would only be feeding the sin issue if I asked them to make a list of things they want for Christmas. I am taking notice of things they like and are intersted in. I let them tell me those things from time to time. Jax is wanting a basketball and a skateboard, and I plan to go to Play It Again Sports (a sports resale shop) for that. Emma is devouring books, so I plan to find as many used books online as I can for Christmas. Justus is into dressing up. This is his latest superhero costume...

This costume he put together is a bandana, which cost $1 at Wal-Mart, and then a hand egg-beater, also probably found at a dollar store. For some reason my kids love that hand mixer! You just never know! They like that and my eyelash curler best of all "toys" in the house! Treston...who knows. Food and tennis balls. That would be plenty for him.
Here's some more ideas I have.

1. Winkflash is running a special on photo calendars for only $7.77! That's pretty good! Parents and grandparents love that stuff!

2. Go to my sister-in-law, Liz's blog. She had some great stuff posted about using Modge Podge to make these really cool wooden pictures! They turned out so cool! She gives step-by-step instructions. She's super creative. Check out all her ideas. They are also into Advent Conspiracy.

3. Someone else's blog talked about giving the gift of presence or shared activities. They gave a day at the zoo to one of their kids, or other activities that your family loves. If that is someone you know's love language, that would be a wonderful gift to give! Make positive sure that you follow through, and give specifics on the when and where.

4. Food. This is my love language (not actually in the Gary Chapman book, but if I were to write a book, I would add it as the sixth one). I like to bake and cook for people, and I think people enjoy it. (At least I hope so.) I mentioned before I gave meals that I froze for my parents to use whenever they needed them. I also make homemade salsa, candy, truffles, banana bread, etc. I think this is a labor of love, and everybody likes food, right?

5. Someone mentioned to me the other day as we discussed this, they choose to make a big deal out of birthday gifts rather than Christmas gifts, because birthdays are meant to be about celebrating that person's birth, and Christmas is supposed to be about celebrating Jesus. We love birthdays and half birthdays around here, so I liked the idea of making people feel special on those days especially.

So this doesn't mean we won't do gifts. We will. But we will spend less and there will be less fanfare.
The questions we really want to ask ourselves is "How can we make Christmas about Christ, and how can we imitate Him?"
Going into debt at Christmas time with unnecessary spending probably wouldn't do.
I do believe this will look different from person to person, family to family. I don't think we can follow a formula on Christmas, and be right. I know it's about our hearts and our willingness to go against the flow in effort to please Him more. But just because I'm thinking outloud for us on this blog doesn't mean your Christmas will look like ours. I hope we are all challenged, though, to examine our hearts' and where our focus is, 365 days of the year. We want to make our lives all about Him, all of the time.

8 comments:

texasinafrica said...

Great post. You might be interested in catalogchoice.org - they help you to get off all of those catalog mailing lists, which is also better for the environment!

Anonymous said...

Jenn,

It is so good to hear your encouragement in getting back to actually celebrating Christ during Christmas, not just saying we are and then spending and looking just like the world does during Christmas time. I think that your right in that each Christmas will look different, but what matters is that our hearts are right about how we lift up our Lord Jesus. I am blessed that the Lord is refining me in this area...even if I feel like I am retraining a brain that has gotten a mixed up Christmas version for the last 21 years...

All that to say, thanks for the practical ideas...Reed and I are getting jazzed hearing your advice and ideas :)

-Jessica Wrase :)

Jeanie said...

There are a lot of people that have a very difficult time during the holidays. Many of them are estranged from their families or have painful memories of holidays.

We know a few people like this and we talk about this as a family and find ways to do extra special things for them during the holidays to show them Christ's love.

This is what my parents did when I was a child and more than gifts it is what I have always enjoyed most about the holidays.

Jeanie

Christy@pipandsqueak said...

Thanks for getting me to think. My brother-in-law and sister-in-law are actually going on a trip with living waters this next week.

Shannon Morrison said...

random blog stalker here...

I'm torn on the catalogs. We have definitely outlawed commercials--it really amps up the greediness. but I think we might still look at catalogs, especially when they are school-aged. I think there is some value in teaching to appreciate that something is pretty, neat, cool, etc. without actually owning that thing. Same reason we don't avoid the toy aisles at the store. any thoughts?

ps we are doing advent conspiracy too! get a free 20 page snapfish book at this link today! have to finish it by sunday though. http://www.oprah.com/slideshow/oprahshow/20081029_tows_messyhouse/7

Emily said...

My love language is food too...well, food and hugs! I wonder if other people would feel loved if I just gave them really big hugs for Christmas?? I think food is a better route:).

I love what ya'll are doing! I also loved the idea of doing calendars as gifts. I was thinking "oh, we should make one for my mom." But then I realized baby J is not born yet and my momma probably doens't want a calendar of just Adam and I...we aren't that interesting to look at all 12 months of the year:)

Emily

Katy said...

Ya'll are such neat family. I love keeping up with your family.

I changed my blog link since I got married. You'll have to check it out and change your link on your "Blog list" so it will be correct!!

thelinkhome.blogspot.com

Katy St. John Link

Mandy said...

This is so encouraging. My son wanted to make a potato canon with my husband and they are going to give it to my other son for Christmas. The boys are also going to make some dollhouse furniture for the girls. Homemade isn't always less expensive - but it is definitely more meaningful. We are having fun with the kids working together on these projects. Our big clue we needed to make a change was last year when I told my husband I just wanted Christmas to be over with as soon as possible. It had just become too chaotic and stressful. I would love to hear more ideas! :)