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Monday, December 15, 2008

Celebrating CHRISTMAS Without Cash

It has already been our practice (as human nature) that we all spend a lot of money in buying presents, buy some decorations, send cards to reconnect families and friends - for the reason being, WE WANTED TO BE HAPPY, TO BE ABLE TO HAVE A MERRY CELEBRATION, and TO SIMPLY FEEL THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS!

What if we don't have any CASH or even credit card to buy anything to celebrate? Would it still be possible to have a MERRY CHRISTMAS?

Recently, the whole world has had opportunities to look at ways to be more careful and considerate about how and what we have to buy. This year, we have a chance to seek the TRUE SPIRIT of the SEASON rather than get wrapped up in the more commercial aspects...

In what way? As we may say "It's the thoughts that counts".

Find out here the 12 ideas for a richer, not more expensive, Christmas!

1) Big on Spirit, Low on Money
By Gay Norton Edelman

Gay Norton Edelman is a senior editor at Family Circle magazine. She writes frequently on spiritual issues; her favorite gifts are donations to her favorite charities, but she’s not a bit opposed to shiny packages, too.

2) Manage Kids' Expectations
At a time when the financial reality requires that it has got to be the love and not the stuff that matters, let your kids know that you’re opting for a simpler, more heartfelt holiday season. They can handle it. But don’t say, “We can’t afford it.” Say, “We’re choosing to keep it simple and creative this year. We’re going to focus on being imaginative about gifts and emphasizing togetherness, not shopping.” If you believe it, they will, too (even if they do groan and roll their eyes). Help them gain perspective by volunteering as a family (actually having contact with the people you’re helping is the best form of give-and-take there is). Collect donations for food banks or give time at an animal shelter. Show them how much you believe in their giving little hearts and prepare to be awed!

3) Creative Cupons
Be honest—if you had the choice between a piece of jewelry or someone to clean out your fridge, wouldn’t you pick the kitchen first aid? Most people would rather have more help than more stuff. Get on the computer and have a ball thinking up things you can do for people you cherish. Then write up fancy certificates or hand-lettered index cards. Give your adult son a coupon for a half-dozen freshly ironed shirts, your teenage daughter a free pass from Saturday chores, your significant other…well, use your imagination and make sure he or she opens the gift privately!

4) Suitable for Framing
Find a nice poem in the public domain, and create something your loved one can frame (or polish and use one of those frames in your bottom drawer, or pick up a simple one at the dollar store). How about the serenity prayer for your 12-step buddy? Or your sister’s favorite Psalm (such as, “Be still and know that I am God,” Psalm 46:10)? Wrap and add a bow--at my house we sometimes use the Sunday comics or, for fans, the sports section, as wrapping paper--and you’re ready to rock and roll! Not long ago my friend Karen printed out a list of pithy healing statements for me in my favorite color, purple (sample, from Mother Teresa, “Intense love does not measure; it just gives”). It’s hanging in my dining room right now.

5) New Game
The best gifts say, “I know you. I think about you. I understand you.” Several years ago I created an acrostic for my friend, Karen, making a simple poem using the letters of her first name. I did it on the computer, but if you have nice penmanship, you could do it by hand. Write the person’s name vertically, then use each letter to begin a fun, loving statement about the person. It was such a simple gift, but she had tears in her eyes when she read it. “Nobody’s ever done something with my name like that,” she said. Another option is to put the person’s name on a hat (maybe with a slogan) or t-shirt (with a favorite photo).

6) Focus on an Interest
It really is the thought—not the dollar number on the bottom of the receipt—that counts. Think about what your loved one really enjoys or cherishes, and gather together simple tools of his trade or hobby. Your friend loves to write—get her a blank book, a pretty pen, and a set of ear plugs. Your husband cherishes his garden–give him a pile of seed catalogs and a promise in writing to do the ordering for him when the time comes. For a baker—create a basket of supplies and a shiny new gadget to spur her on. And if you dare, you can even re-gift or go with gently used goods. I have friend of limited means who’s a genius at knowing what books I like—twice I’ve received a lovely stack of two or three spiritual books, tied with raffia, decorated with a small sprig of greenery, and sporting a heartfelt, custom-written card. Perfect!

7) Grandma, We Love You
Have everyone—the kids, the grandkids, the in-laws—write love notes, with specifics on what they’re grateful for and what their favorite times have been. Embellish with hand drawings. Cover a shoe box with pretty paper, stuff the love notes inside, and watch the feelings flow. Or do you have a relative (like my sister-in-law Eve who never misses a birthday, anniversary, or holiday for anyone in our huge family) who likes to send as well as receive notes of good cheer? A thoughtful gift could be an assortment of lovely stationery and some cool custom stamps. (There are several sites that make them. Or just go to the post office and have them show you their assortment of commemorative stamps.)

8) Share Your Soul
Take a page from the tradition of prayer beads. Make or buy a string of pretty beads. As you string them, one at a time, speak a special prayer “into” it; if store-bought, just touch each bead and say a prayer as you do. Make each brief prayer meaningful for the recipient (e.g. May you find true love, may you make a dream come true, may you do well in school this year, etc.). Find a lovely jewelry-sized box and present it to your loved one with a special note. Either explain that each bead has a special prayer in it or list the prayers. (I’m doing this for my sweet big sister, Anita, who totally deserves this kind of blessing.) You can use the same principle with a knitted or crocheted scarf or afghan—pray with each stitch, then present with a note on the item’s history. You could even go with recipes—copy your favorites into a pretty pamphlet, adding a prayer or a simple, affirming quote with each one, then bake one of the dishes and present it all together.

9) Potluck Dinner
Happiness researchers tell us that it isn’t the cost of the gift that creates the wow but the quality of the love behind it. Even when it feels like the reason for the season is eating, what really matters is all the good energy flowing as the dishes are passed. So plan an extended-family or neighborhood potluck dinner. You provide paper cups, plates, and plasticware—or go green and have everyone bring his or her own plate, cup, and silverware. You also take charge of beverages and hors d’oeuvres. Then set a date and assign half your guest list vegetables and salads, a quarter an entrĂ©e, the last quarter desserts. Run a vacuum around the living room, pull out your best tablecloth, and now it’s a party!

10) Fireside Chats
Kids of all ages love to tell and hear stories about themselves. Draw the family close one December night, pop some corn or toast some marsh mallows, make cocoa or mull some cider (heat to very warm, not hot, and add a pinch each of cinnamon, ginger, and cloves), and pull out the family photos—those in albums and the ones still strewn in boxes. Go through them together and narrate. If your kids are older, like mine, they may share a memory or two of their own that might surprise you. In all likelihood, there’ll be some laughter! Take more photos for next time. Resolve to make this an annual tradition.

11) Make a Joyful Noise
Photocopy a dozen favorite seasonal songs, and pull out your old folk song books. Invite your friends to a sing-along. If you’ve got a guitar or piano player in the bunch, so much the better—but if not, that’s fine too. You’re there to laugh and feel closer to each other, not to make the hit parade! Everybody brings a snack, you provide the drinks, and you’re home (almost) free. If you want to go really crazy, get everyone to go caroling house-to-house. Then, back to yours for hot drinks and a debriefing of all the different responses.

12) Schedule a Games Night
Here’s a way to get together with friends and family that will never end in arguments over who’s picking up the tab! Invite a dozen or so people (more gets unwieldy) and ask that everyone bring a snack (some folks can bring sweet, some savory) and a favorite no-tech game. (As in Trivial Pursuit, Monopoly, Pictionary, or even that weird unopened one way back on the shelf.) Light the bayberry candles and the fireplace, if you have one, and laugh the evening away. My neighbors and I still recall the night, organized by my friend Barbara, when we all got so giddy over some silly game that tears rolled. You can’t make this kind of memory happen, but you absolutely can lay the groundwork. To get the fun started, stack all the games on the coffee table and get a consensus. Or rotate through the top three or four—who says you can’t be fickle?—and party on.

Source: Beliefnet
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