How to Focus on Christmas: Part 1

Thursday, December 1, 2011

I'm writing this post on Monday evening, having survived Black Friday by not leaving my house, and Cyber Monday by limiting my internet time to two planned transactions.

I'm not here to criticize you for finding deals over the weekend (if that is what you did), I'm just admitting that I had to close my eyes, cover my ears, and say, "La-la-la-la-laaa!" to avoid overspending on a bunch of stuff that I don't really want to give, and my family and friends don't really want to receive.

I am simply admitting that for the rest of this month, I have to concentrate to keep the Reason for the Season at the forefront of my mind. I have to concentrate to avoid getting swept up in the wave of hyper-consumerism that is everywhere



One way I am focusing my mind is by mostly purchasing gifts that mean something to me. (I say "mostly" because my kids want popular toys and those are harder - though not impossible - to fit into the meaningful category. Check out this video about toys and happiness that my children saw thanks to Amy Sullivan - must view!!) The gifts that help me focus carry meaning because they benefit the less fortunate, or because they are made locally, or by someone I know. I could give you hundreds of examples, but to keep it simple, I'll stick with three:

(1) Wise Giving, at my church, MPPC. This is a way to give donations to organizations that the church works with (around the world!) on behalf of a loved one, and give that donation card as a Christmas gift. Even better, you can buy some great products made by groups we work with - coffee, jewelry and music. You can only buy the products in person, but anyone can make a donation online . . . just sayin'.

(2) Saved By Grace Designs, an Etsy shop run by our friend, Andrea. She has a special going on through December - free shipping, or you pay the shipping and she will donate that amount to World Vision to buy a sewing machine for a woman seeking to get out of poverty. How cool is that?! I've got two of her reversible headbands (which really means I have 4 cool headbands) and I LOVE them. This one is my favorite:

Apologies for the awkward, weird picture, but taking a picture of yourself in the bathroom is, well . . . awkward and weird. Still, the headband rocks. It does not give me a headache, and I can wear it with my glasses. Triple points for that.

(3) Sweet Charleston Designs, a jewelry company started by one of the hardest working women I know, my cousin-in-law, Angie. I remember when she sat on our couch and told us this "crazy idea" she had to create jewelry based on the beautiful and popular seagrass baskets made right here in the Lowcountry. Well, her idea came to life and is now available in a multitude of jewelry stores across the country. If you live near one, go check it out - I promise you will be blown away. You can see even more examples of her work on the Sweet Charleston Facebook page. And while you're there, "Like" them, would you please?

Shopping in these personal places is just one way that I am focusing on Christmas this year. I'll be sharing more ways to focus as the month progresses. I don't know yet what those "ways" will be, but when I figure it out, you'll be the first to know.

Until then, where do you like to shop? Tell us about your favorite, meaningful vendors in the comments. I'd love to go visit.

Most importantly, how do you focus on meaningful gift-giving when the lights are sparkling, the music is blaring, and the marked-down toaster looks oh-so-tempting?

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Just so you know, (1) (2) and (3) don't know I'm writing about them today. These are just my honest opinions.

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13 Responses to “How to Focus on Christmas: Part 1”

  1. nice blend of giving and what was given on Christmas Day

  2. Beautiful headband.

    I admire what you're saying here and agree with you. I have to finally
    sit down and make out a Christmas shopping list tonight and I don't look
    forward to it. :-( Thanksgiving is so much easier...

  3. Great ideas! I love asking for people to donate to Compassion rather than give me gifts. Most people don't listen, but even if some amount is donated to that organization, it's a much better use of the money than wasting it on me. I do love it when a gift helps support a charity, too!

  4. Great idea. I like gift ideas that bless the receiver  of the gift and someone in need. :)

  5. How about some Callie's Biscuits! :)  As for gifts, it is so hard!  We made a big effort last year to keep gifts in check and remember that being with family and cherishing our blessings was what we wanted our children to remember about Christmas.  This year, I am trying something that one of my mom's friends does for her children: each child will receive 3 gifts from us (Santa brings one unwrapped gift and a stocking) modeled after the Magi's three gifts.  No gold for now, but I am giving one educational item, one piece of clothing and one "fun" item. It has kept me in check and on my budget!

  6. LOVE the headband :) and i love that you stayed home and focused on the reason for the season. bless you.

  7. Excellent suggestion, Beth - love Callie's Biscuits! Also, I really like your suggestion for three gifts for each child and the way Santa does the gifts . . . .it gets out of control so quickly and that can keep it in check. I may copy you!

  8. My co-workers and I get an Angel off the Angel Tree and buy toys, clothes, etc for the child whose name appears on the Angel. We present this to our bosses instead of giving them a gift card or some other type of tangible gift. There is also an organization called Gospel for Asia that you can purchase livestock, blankets, Bibles, ect for a person or family in Asia. You can do this i honor/memory of someone as well.  

  9. Love this post! You are right that it is so easy to get caught up in commercialism and I like your ideas listed, especially local or gifts from a crafter. Those are cool gifts that people love to receive and the money is going to an actual person instead of big business. I think we are giving donations in honor of our parents this year as they don't need anything. 

  10. Hey Courtney! 
    LOVE this post.  My husband and I decided long ago before our kids came along that if 3 gifts were good enough for Jesus, then 3 gifts would be enough for our kids!  All joking aside, we made that choice for our family because we want our children to appreciate the gifts they receive, avoid the "unwrap one gift/toss aside/look for the next gift to unwrap" frenzy, and most importantly, learn that Christmas is not just about lights, glitter, cookies, and presents.  It's very hard to avoid the "hype", but we are trying really hard to create memories, appreciation for our blessings, and family traditions.  Our girls may not have the coolest toys and gadgets on the block, but we're okay with that.  Hopefully someday they'll understand! :) 

    One of my friends started making adorable aprons just for fun, and I fell in love with them.  She even linked up with a lady that does monogramming on them.  I purchased one for just about every female we planned to give a gift.  I wish she had a website, FB page, or something! :)

    Hope your holiday season is filled with many blessings, Anne

  11. Anne - Thanks so much for sharing this. I am inspired by all these ideas, especially the concept of "limiting" the gifts to three. I feel like I need a limit, because I have a tendency to think of too many gift ideas, and then I feel guilty when I can't do them all. It is messed up :)

    The aprons sound so cute. Let us know if she ever gets online. I'd love to check them out! 

  12. Angel - Thanks for sharing these great ideas. I bet your bosses treasure your gift. It certainly gets to the heart of the season. 

  13. I shop downtown at the local shops. I try to avoid commercialism and take joy from every purchase. I avoid black friday and cyber monday completely as the greed in this country is out of control. Shopping should be a leisurely and pleasant excursion, not grabbing an item from the display and pepper spraying the crowd, or leaving a grandfather to die in the aisle.