My wife and I came into the Christmas season with two goals:
1. Focus on the meaning: friends and family, the spiritual, helping others. It hasn't been perfect – this is Year 3 of me intending to help at a food pantry or homeless shelter – but overall I think we've done a good job.
2. Buy fewer presents for the kids and spend less. But if we do buy a few things too many, lean toward the practical, such as gloves and snowpants and socks.
This can be tough, not because our kids ask for the moon, but because we want to give it to them. I love shopping for them. I love the looks in their eyes when they start tearing open a present, curious what it might be.
Buying stuff for the kids – a sketch notebook or an ice cream cone – is an addiction I need to crack, just maybe not at Christmas.
I love this passage from the blog, A Quiet Simple Life, which helps me reconcile my desire to give, but in a more practical way:
There is one area in my life where I do not wish to practice simplifying and downsizing. It is Christmas.
I can tell you all the reasons why it is good to do a simple Christmas, why giving less gifts is good, why Christmas isn’t about the gifts, blah, blah, blah. But the fact of the matter is that I love a good blowout of gift giving at Christmas.
Now blowout is a relative term. I’m not talking thousands of dollars and I’m not talking about debt. I’m just talking about piles and piles of gifts under the tree that are carefully selected, gorgeously wrapped, under the tree for at least two or three weeks, and paid for in full.
We bought one big-ticket item for our kids, a hanful of little things, and few items that fall somewhere in the middle. The best part: no matter what we give our kids, they'll like it. They'll come downstairs Christmas morning to a lit Christmas tree and start looking for the packages with their names.
And in those few moments, my wife and I will smile, and enjoy their joy, and know Christmas 2011 was the Christmas we started to learn how to spend a little less and give a little more.