Better to give: Family vs. Charitable giving at Christmas

Baby time is quickly approaching, and I am more than ready to meet my little guy. He’s due to arrive in one week, but the anticipation that goes along with the fact that he could arrive any day is driving me crazy. I just can’t wait to see him and start our life as a family.

I know he won’t remember Christmas this year, but having a baby has started me thinking about what Christmas traditions I want to incorporate into our family now that we have kids. The traditions that my family had when I was growing up made Christmas really special, and while it’s fun to incorporate some of those I think it’s also fun to think of some new ones. I want to start Christmas off right from the time our kids are starting to understand it.

When I look at Facebook this time of year I always start to two sides of the Christmas presents debate. Not that there is really a debate, but I start to see arguments that Christmas is a time of thankless over-spending and that stores who open their doors for Black Friday shopping killing the Christmas Spirit- which I largely agree with. I believe the most important thing about holidays is spending time with family, so I will not be participating in Christmas by waiting in lines all day on Thanksgiving. That’s my choice and I can only hope that other Americans choose to spend time with their families as well on Thanksgiving, but I know that won’t happen. I also believe that we over-buy presents for each other when we could be spending that money to help the world- like the model that the Advent Conspiracy pushes by trying to get people to buy less presents and build water wells in under-developed countries. It’s a good idea and I think it makes sense and we should try to help not only at Christmas, but all year.

Although I agree with everything above I also believe that gifts for family and friends are a good thing. I see the value in searching far and wide for the last copy of Super Mario Brothers 3 or Megazord out there to make your kids happy on Christmas morning. I think it’s a good thing to teach that Santa Claus brings us presents and to develop a sense of magic and wonder in our kids. I believe that teaching kids about Santa and giving gifts to them teaches our children to hope.

Talking with really young kids about Jesus and God and trusting him or putting hope in him is can be something that is just way over their heads. Santa provides a tangible example of how God loves us because it shows kids that someone is out there who wants  to bless them abundantly. When I explain Santa to my kids I will say that he comes because he wants to celebrate Jesus’s birthday and he is delivering presents to show that God loves them. When they write a letter to Santa asking for a toy, they are in a sense learning how to pray. By eagerly awaiting the arrival of the gift they are learning how to hope, and by receiving the gift on Christmas morning (or by not receiving it) they are learning that someone cares about them and responds to those requests. If they ask for something that isn’t good for them and they don’t receive it, they are learning that they are being watched over by someone wiser than themselves. Learning these lessons early is a good thing, and I believe that giving them gifts that they want is teaching them how much they are loved by others (God, us, Santa, Grandma and Grandpa, or whoever).

So, while I’ll be eating pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving night instead of standing in line at Target, and while my husband and I will try to identify how God wants us to help someone outside our family get by during the holidays, I also will be Christmas shopping for my family and trying to find the perfect gifts to show them how much I know God loves them.  The way I see it, giving is always good- whether you’re giving to family or those in need. My family will always try to do both.

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