Make Christmas Different This Year

by Kevin on December 10, 2009

What is the meaning of Christmas?

Is it presents under the tree, electronics in the cabinet, and a new luxury car in the driveway with an unrealistically huge red bow on top?

Or is it family, community, eggnog, good food, and quality time spent together away from the stresses of an average day?

(Okay so I threw eggnog in there to make sure you were paying attention. Eggnog is my favorite holiday drink, hands down.)

Or better yet is Christmas about giving, helping, and remembering an event from many years ago?

Changing Our Christmas

My wife and I have decided to take Christmas back. We are tired of trying to think up things we might want to put on our list, tired of fighting mall traffic, and tired of stuff.

The main component is the stuff. We have everything we need. We have a wonderful home, two well running vehicles (knock on wood), nice clothing, up to date technology in terms of computers and cell phones, and we even just got a nice TV. The television purchase was planned out and saved up for; we just happened to buy it around the holidays because that is when the prices drop.

So we’re not doing Christmas shopping this year. We’re not going to fight the crowds to buy the trinket that ends up in the closet. We’re done with that.

On top of all that… we’re happy. We feel incredibly blessed and truly feel like we lack for nothing.

Our money can be better utilized this holiday season. Not everyone is as blessed as we are. Read on for how we are planning to use some of the money we could have spent on ourselves.

Doing Good and Helping Others Motivated by Advent Conspiracy

Watch this amazing video by for some inspiration for this holiday season:

Imagine if we all chipped in. Imagine that the money spent on cheap (not inexpensive) meaningless toys (I’m looking at you, Zhu Zhu pets) was instead spent to change a life, to change your family, to change a village, to change a city?

I’m not saying you need to not buy any Christmas presents this year. Not at all. But before you completely fill up your cart… stop and think. Do we really need this?

That’s the stance we’re taking this year.

Join the Advent Conspiracy

You don’t have to contribute to Living Water, the organization that Advent Conspiracy supports. You don’t even really have to support any charity this holiday season if you don’t want to.

Here are some ideas you can use to change your Christmas this year:

  • Spend time together as a family – Do a puzzle (one of our personal favorites), play a card or board game, watch a movie, watch football, or drink coffee and swap stories
  • Donate your time – You likely have skills that a non-profit organization could put to good use. Yes helping out at the canned food drive would be nice, but what if you put your accountant skills to use to help balance the books?
  • Adopt a family or angel – There are many organizations like Angel Tree that help provide Christmas or Christmas meals to needy families. Instead of spending money on yourself, take that money and truly surprise a family or two this Christmas.
  • Donate to a local school You can find real, verified needs at local schools with I wrote about DonorsChoose in August when my wife posted a need. Generous readers fulfilled the $377 in need in one day. We were stunned!

Next week I will share how you can give one of the best gifts of all so be sure to come back or subscribe (it’s free) so you won’t miss it.

Now For Your Ideas…

Surely there are many different ways you can change Christmas this year for the better. I’ve only listed four with a fifth idea coming in a separate post next week.

Let’s hear it in the comments. How are you making Christmas different?

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July Luis December 10, 2009 at 6:55 am

We all need to make Christmas a little different.. maybe more Jesus.. maybe saving money..speaking about that… I want to share what I found…For my son… I wanted to share this Christmas shopping idea.. I found this site called EZwingame. They are giving away free things like a Nintendo Wii ( which I played for to give my son) as well as Calvin Klien perfume for me.

I liked your post..

Jackie December 10, 2009 at 8:43 am

Two years ago we decided to scale back dramatically on gift-giving. We cut our list of recipients down to practically no one, and asked people who usually gave us gifts not to. For the most part our change was greeted with relief, and several others decided to do something similar.

The holidays are now practically stress-free and much more enjoyable. I was a little surprised by how much I like it, because I’m a big gifts person. But I’m very glad we did it.

Derek December 10, 2009 at 9:37 am

Interesting post. Since you don’t want to exchange material gifts and want to give back, why don’t you exchange charity donations? You and your wife could try to pick a charity that the other might find especially touching and place a donation in their name. A lot of these organizations will provide you with a certificate so you have something to exchange on Christmas. This is something my sister loves to do.

Money Funk December 10, 2009 at 2:09 pm

I think Christmas is different for many people this year. And it’s not a bad idea to take Christmas back. We have scaled down considerably, too. Especially since we are not using the credit cards ever again (makes for a happy wife to not go into debt for the holidays).

I admit I do feel discomfort to not being like the default consumer christmas(er) this year, but I think I could get used to this. Now, I am not sure about my kids. 😉

B7 December 10, 2009 at 4:13 pm

I agree 100%. It’s so pathetic to see people on the news literally crying and saying, “I can’t buy my kids toys so this Christmas is going to be terrible!”

I understand that their kids are in it for the toys, but aren’t grown-ups supposed to be a little more wise? Is the value of the family determined by the amount of money spent on presents?

Also, who the heck decided that Christmas is about buying presents? Before the age of marketing, Christmas was a holy day for love and giving and gratitude and God. It wasn’t about shopping! People have accepted the consumption mindset so completely that they cannot imagine a Christmas without stuff bought from a store.

Perhaps Christmas could be a lot more pleasurable and less stressful if we stop thinking about it as a product-giving-and-getting ceremony and more as an opportunity to be grateful for all of the things that we already have.

lauren December 10, 2009 at 7:38 pm

Coincidentally I came across the following quotation this morning and sent it to some of my colleagues who are yet to do their Christmas shopping. Personally I love giving gifts and it’s one of the nicest parts of Christmas in my mind. I don’t spend much money at all on each person and I start shopping in the post-Christmas sales so that the cost is spread out over the year so I don’t struggle too much. If you don’t enjoy it and find it stressful, I wholeheartedly agree you should give it up!

Here’s the quote:
“Christmas gift suggestions:
To your enemy, forgiveness.
To an opponent, tolerance.
To a friend, your heart.
To a customer, service.
To all, charity.
To every child, a good example.
To yourself, respect.”
Oren arnold

Ken December 11, 2009 at 6:06 am

I would add the Make A Wish Foundation to your list. I personally know of a 5yr old with leukemia…they sent her and her family to Walt Disney World for 7 days! Wow. Sounds like someone worth supporting. Thanks for the post and reminder to not get caught up in the ‘buying’ of Christmas.

Golfing Girl December 11, 2009 at 7:07 am

“We feel incredibly blessed and truly feel like we lack for nothing”

We feel exactly the same way. But my in-laws hound us until we send them some sort of wish list and then send us the exact item they want us to buy them. It’s really ridiculous–shouldn’t we just buy ourselves the things we really would use/need??

And then there is my family who lives 12 hours away–none of whom really has “extra” money to buy Christmas presents. We tell them over and over not to buy us anything, but if they feel they must get something, get it for our 6 year old daughter (though we’d much rather it be a contribution to her 529 plan than some piece of junk made in China she’ll stop playing with in 2 days). But I’m sure they’re out at Wal-mart getting some plastic thing with batteries as we speak…

Our solution has been to send one giant gift basket of food goodies to each side of my family where everyone will be meeting so that they can enjoy it and think of us since we aren’t there. As for the in-laws, since there are only the MIL, FIL and BIL, we’ll just keep going along with the absurd, “here, buy this for me and tell me what you want” routine. Maybe I suggest adopting a needy family next year instead of exchanging gifts, but I’m guessing it will be vetoed.

Mrs. White December 11, 2009 at 7:59 am

Excellent post. I just watched the video. Very good.

I love all the comments. I really don’t understand why there is so much shopping and craziness this time of year. Does anyone know when it all started?

In the 1800’s children would get a piece of fruit, a penny and a little candy. (generally speaking of course.) Then they went to church.

Matt SF December 11, 2009 at 11:14 am

Great post Kev! Loved the video. Glad I’m not the only one who has been on the anti-consumerism soapbox lately.

As for me, I’m only giving gifts that will double in value when they’re opened. That means I get top dollar out of the “joy of giving” aspect of gift giving, and the recipient receives a gift he/she truly wants.

Just things they will really love/need or 529 contributions from me this year!

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