When Angie asked me to blog about my favorite holiday tradition I have to admit that the first thoughts that ran through my head were about all the holiday traditions I despise. It seems I’ve become quite a cynic where holidays are concerned. As a culture, we Americans have become so infatuated with the commercialism and meaningless hoopla surrounding the holidays that we have all but forgotten what it is we’re celebrating in the first place. Case in point: St. Patrick’s Day. We adorn ourselves head-to-toe in green in order to avoid being pinched and instead collect unwanted kisses. Then we spend the entire day skipping work and hopping bars. According to the 2008 US Census Bureau, less than 12% of Americans can legitimately trace their ancestry to Ireland, yet the vast majority want to jump on the St. Patty’s bandwagon. I have to wonder how many of these party-goers have a clue who St. Patrick was. As it turns out St. Patrick wasn’t even Irish for crying out loud! He was a British missionary who traveled Ireland preaching the gospel of Christ. I’m pretty sure St. Patrick is looking down from heaven shaking his head in sour disappointment over the disgrace that has been made of his name. And don’t even get me started on Cinco de Mayo!
Sadly, in the same way, I have almost come to loathe the Christmas season. Although most Americans can tell you that the Christmas holiday is the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus, so few actually partake in the true celebration, forgoing any religious affiliation for the more modern traditions. Even here in Wichita, the very bosom of the Bible belt, celebrating the birth of our Savior has become a near-extinct in most homes. Instead we prefer to spend hundreds of dollars to temporarily transform our homes inside and out into winter wonderlands and hundreds (if not thousands) more on purchasing gifts for our loved ones whom we have raised with an arrogant a sense of entitlement to receive them.
By now you’re probably thinking; “Geesh, this lady is a real Scrooge!” I can hear your faint accusations; “But, Kristin, what about the children? What about the sense of wonder and excitement on their faces Christmas morning as they behold Santa’s heaping bounty? We do it for the children!” Okay, okay. I admit that I too get pleasure in witnessing the sparkle in my children’s eyes and their squeals of joy as they unwrap each gift. But my greatest delight by far is the joy found on their precious faces in the weeks before Christmas…
And here is where my favorite holiday tradition comes into play…Giving. My husband and I have developed a financial tradition of giving an equal amount to charities each season as we spend for ourselves and our family. Each year, as a family, we select one or more charities for which we choose offer our time, our money and our gifts. In the past we have participated in everything from Toys for Tots, Angel Tree and Adopt-a-Family to The Salvation Army, City Union Mission or a local hospital children’s ward. The charities change each year depending on what strikes a chord with us at the time. However, there is one charity in particular what we remain faithful to year in and year out. Operation Christmas Child is a program operated through the Samaritan’s Purse organization. The program collects shoeboxes full of toys, candy and basic essentials to deploy to impoverished children in third-world countries. From the time my boys were old enough to point their chubby little fingers, I have taken them on an annual excursion to a department store at the beginning of each holiday season with the sole purpose of allowing them to select the gifts to fill their Operation Christmas Child boxes. I love nothing more than watching their little hearts expand and overflow as they focus on something beyond themselves and learn about the blessing of giving. They have so much fun discussing and debating which toys their recipients might enjoy and what items (things we Americans take for granted like toothbrushes and wash cloths) that they might need. Each year I have to reign in their generosity as they try to cram the entire catalogue of merchandise into the disappointingly limited space provided by their box.
We had our opportunity to partake in this particular annual tradition just last week. To my amazement the boys were able to keep a lid on their own personal wants and focus on the task of giving (quite an impressive feat for children ages 5 and 9…or persons of any age for that matter!) As we were finishing up our shopping and making our way to store’s check-out area – shoeboxes filled to maximum capacity – my oldest son Truman turned to me and said: “Mom, I love buying these gifts. It makes me feel so good inside.” I nearly burst with pride as I tousled his hair and replied; “I know, Baby, me too.” Holiday tradition accomplished!
Thanks Kristin for that great post! We too participate in Operation Christmas Child. For more information you can go to www.samaritanspurse.org I know our church is still collecting boxes this weekend, so it's not too late for you to do one! You can always give it to me and I can turn it in for you!
In honor of Kristin's post, I'm going to give away a $5 gift card to Scooter's Coffee Shop.... Kristin loves that place and until recently was a barista/manager there.... so it's the great giveaway for her. Just leave a comment on this post saying "Amen" or "You're Silly" or whatever mostly nice thing you want to say, and you'll be entered to win!!!