Besides doing youth ministry things, I am a mom to three kids ages 11, 9 and 6. I know not every family does the whole “Santa” thing, but we do, so Christmas for us means walking that fine line between fostering greed, over-commercialized-everything and trying to find the true meaning of Christmas. When my two sons put Assassins Creed III, a graphic, violent video game, at the top of their wish list this year, we had to have a little family meeting about the whole meaning of Christmas, never mind the appropriateness of the game in the first place. It really was a no from the get-go, they took it off their lists.
The bigger issue was that it made it to the list in the first place. How do we get our own children to understand Christmas’s meaning when we let its meaning become all about the free gifts from Santa? It’s tough to navigate the murky waters of parenting and gift-giving at Christmas.
As a family, we are not looking to give up gift-giving altogether, although I have colleagues that don’t do Santa and are perfectly content. At the same time, we’d like to model responsible gift-giving in a landscape that sometimes goes way overboard.
Are people asking you what you want for Christmas? What gifts can be given that capture the true meaning of Christmas?
Here are 7 socially responsible, last minute gift ideas you can put on your wish list:
- Make a donation to an important cause in honor of your loved one. My personal favorite is the World Vision Gift Catalog. World Vision offers countless ways to support their ministries. Support a small business in honor of a small businessperson, feed the hungry in honor of your snack supper coordinator. If you want to give a physical gift, World Vision offers fairly produced products as gift items for certain donations. For teacher gifts, I donated toward ‘the education of one child’ instead of buying apple-themed #1 teacher coffee mugs. No matter what you donate, you can print or send e-cards to as many people as you would like.
- Try Fair Trade Shopping. Buying something that is labeled “Fair Trade” means you are buying something that was produced in a socially responsible way. It is not produced by slave labor but by people earning a fair wage and working in a safe environment. In the spirit of Christmas peace, my personal favorite is the set of “Bullets to Doves” earrings from Ten Thousand Villages.
- Give the gift of Peace on Earth. You can’t get more in the Christmas spirit than giving peace on earth, right? Heifer International/Heifer Project provides food and security for people in poverty by providing animals. You can sponsor an animal for as little as $10, and for $850 you can provide The Gift of Peace on Earth.
- Support UMCOR. The United Methodist Committee on Relief has partnered with Prosperity Candle to offer three great gift sets this holiday season that are fair trade, socially responsible, and give a 10% donation to UMCOR-supported projects. Check out Holiday Cheer, A Peaceful Moment and Start the Day Right gift sets now for someone on your shopping list!
- For the person who loves furry animals. Give a gift that helps protect life on earth through World Wildlife Fund. You can even order a reusable shopping tote or a bucket of stuffed animals as you symbolically adopt an endangered species. http://gifts.worldwildlife.org/gift-center/Default.aspx
- For your favorite athlete or to stock the youth room. Play fair with a vegan soccer ball…just don’t eat it. http://shop.equalexchange.com/ProductInfo/46242.aspx
- Make a gift from the heart. At Christmas and any other gift-giving occasion, hand-made gifts speak of love and thoughtfulness. We all have different talents or interests – I happen to enjoy crafts and baking, but perhaps you could compose a song, put together a photo album, write a short story or create the perfect playlist for someone. You can make a gift certificate for time to be spent together over coffee, volunteering locally or going on a roadtrip.
Whatever you decide, may your Christmas gifts reflect the Wesleyan spirit of “Do Good, Do No Harm and Always Stay in Love with God.”
Peace be with you.
- What are ways you capture the true meaning of Christmas through gift giving?
- What alternative gifts would you recommend?
- For other parents out there, how do you balance Santa Claus tradition with your Christian faith tradition at Christmas?