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No gifts for Christmas, but joy sent to others

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As Christmas approached, many people asked if all my decorations were up and all shopping was done. You know, the hectic reality of long lines, credit card bills, parking battles and turkey burning?

At their amazement, my answer is, “I don’t shop or decorate for Christmas!”

Since last year, our family began a “new” or rather “old” tradition of Christmas. The way we believe that Jesus would expect us to celebrate the holidays: By remaining humble, loving to one another and helping others in need.

My husband just mentioned how incredible our children’s reactions have been, with no complaining, whining or demands for a more illuminated and expensive celebration.

This “new” tradition came about in November 2012 when I began to study the roots and history of Christmas celebration. During family devotion, we as a family began to ponder about the amount of time put on decorations, holiday shopping and gift wrapping.

Why do we spend so much time shopping for others when we are supposed to be preparing a celebration for Jesus’ birthday (so we say)? Could one imagine if for my son’s birthday this year I maxed out my credit card shopping for all of his siblings, my husband, my mother and father, as well as all nieces and nephews? After all, the focus should remain on my birthday boy, right?

I am not judging those who enjoy giving to others, and in fact I sympathize with them. I remember the years when I would spend countless hours shopping, wrapping gifts and cooking ham and turkey. Then I would spend countless hours watching others open gifts, picking up torn up wrapping paper, washing dishes and cleaning up the kitchen.

Then on Dec. 26, when “Jesus’ birthday” was over, I would feel exhausted and nostalgic.

However, for the past two years, our family has decided to give time to others rather than materialistic gifts to each other. One would think that our four children would have protested such a decision, but my husband and I continue to be amazed at the humble, peaceful and joyful attitude of our children.

Last year, we enjoyed volunteering at Love Chapel as a family. This year, our focus was on visiting elders at a retirement home.

As an active duty military family, we also have learned to enjoy and appreciate each other. At home, we baked cookies, played board games and spent quality time discussing meanings of Christianity.

This brings me to one

question: How would Jesus want his followers to celebrate Christmas?

Myriam L. McCray is a Ph.D. psychology intern in counseling specialization at Seymour-based Christopher & Associates Evaluation and Counseling Center Inc.

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