Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas, Advent Conspiracy, and Alternative Christmas Ideas

I've really dropped the ball on my Christmas series.  My intention was to post regularly about the frenzy that occurs during the Christmas season.  However, a variety of events have kept me from doing a thorough job of it.  (School being the most time consuming.)

I've also found myself a bit caught up in the craziness of this time of year.  As December 25 approaches, I find myself worrying that I need to buy additional gifts.  Last night I became most concerned about purchasing gifts for some children in our extended family.  I always buy them gifts but haven't don so yet.  Then I remembered past Christmases, when I've watched them tear into gifts on Christmas day.  It seems to go on for hours, with the children casually tossing aside gifts that I'm sure the purchaser put a lot of time, thought, and money into.  Once a gift is open, it's rarely enjoyed, but put aside so that the next package can be opened.  Thinking about this orgy made me realize none of the children will notice that I didn't buy them a gift.  In fact, I'm pretty sure the gifts I purchased from past Christmases were never used.  What a waste.  And what a poor message to send to children.  Plus, often this frenzy of opening and discarding presents tends to send the children into a mood of over-stimulation, with the end result being unhappiness for everyone around.

So now I turn my attention to Advent and Advent Conspiracy.  Advent is the period of time when many Christians around the world begin a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of Christ's birth on December 25.  In the western world, this celebration has become, rather than a time of anticipation and joy, a time of dread and stress.  Americans especially have turned a time when we should be celebrating  and spreading the peaceful and loving message of Christ into a time of mass consumption.  Black Friday has become the day that marks the beginning of the season, a day when the goal is to get deals on items no one really needs (or wants) and the result often is crippling debt. 

Advent Conspiracy reminds us there can be another way, that we can celebrate the season by worshiping fully, spending less, giving more, and loving all.  It's not about being a Scrooge, but is about being more mindful and caring with our gifts.  Each year at Christmas, Americans spend a staggering $450 billion on gifts and many of those gifts are purchased more out of obligation than out of need or love.  Advent Conspiracy asks that we think about buying just one less gift and to apply the money where it is actually needed and can make a difference.  

There are a number of great organizations where the money usually spent on unwanted and unneeded Christmas gifts can often mean the difference between life and death.  Heifer International is a wonderful organization that provides farm animals to families around the world.  The families are taught how to care for the animals and when the animals reproduce, the offspring are given to other needy families.  Truly a gift that keeps on giving.  Another good charity is Blood:  Water Mission.  This organization helps provide clean drinking water in parts of the world where clean tap water is unavailable.  They also work to provide sanitation facilities and fight against HIV/AIDS.  Kiva is a micro-lending organization that provides capital to entrepreneurs around the world.  Money that is loaned goes to help individuals and companies fund business that provide income to poor families.  Although it is not guaranteed, the money is typically paid back to the lender, making it available to lend to another good cause.  It's another gift that keeps giving.  In addition, look at charities in your own community - for the homeless, the hungry, and the victims of domestic violence,   A good site to use when investigating a charitable organization is Charity Navigator.  

As the big day approaches and we go about buying gifts and spending money, let's keep these things in mind.  Remember that not all the world's citizens are caught up in the holiday frenzy and that their Christmas wish is to have food, shelter, and clean water.

1 comment:

Shona~ LALA dex press said...

When asked what I wanted for Christmas I mentioned the 4 books on my Amazon wish list OR in lieu of a gift, donate the $ that person would have spent on a gift to a local food bank, but this request was met with bewilderment.