Every year I hear from someone, "Well, we don't have a lot of money to buy presents, so I think we'll have to give up Christmas and the holidays this year."
I wanted to break out laughing when I heard the reason why my friend down the street said it this year. It turns out her daughter's Christmas list had on it things like a television set for her room, a new video game system, all kinds of new Bratz dolls and so on.
Give up Christmas just because you can't spend $500 on presents? I look over my box of presents I've collected for my family. I don't think I spent more than $100 yet. I've collected objects in family members' themes such as John Deere tractors, Winnie the Pooh or books. I took pictures of my daughter in her Halloween angel costume over Thanksgiving at my mom's house in Utah and all of the relatives are getting pictures of our "Christmas Desert Angel" in frames I found at the 99-Cent Store. My daughter is getting "Hello Kitty" stuff I've collected through the year, on sale. And my sister wants the iron frying pan I rescued from a friend's storage unit.
My framed photos, past Christmas presents, hang on the walls of all the houses of my family.
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Give up Christmas because can't spend $500? My favorite holiday memories are the ones where we participated in every gig in town. The hospital where my mother worked had a "Festival of the Trees" where groups decorated a Christmas tree each and then the fully decorated trees were auctioned off for charity. My high school choir sang carols at the event. Every year we went to our local Christmas parade.
Every year we also went to the elementary, junior, and senior high school winter programs starring one or more of my brothers and sisters. Every year we went to the Christmas party at my church. Every year I gave a Hanukkah gift to my friends and wished them good health. My daughter still remembers the year we went to holiday parades in Merced, Mariposa and Atwater, where we brought home so many candy canes and Hershey's Kisses we couldn't eat them fast enough.
Give up Christmas because you can't spend $500? Don't. Volunteer to be a bell ringer for The Salvation Army one day. Attend church parties and sample others' recipes at their potlucks. Bundle up and take a walk through your neighborhood to see the lights.
Once upon a time people were happy with items purchased from the Sears catalog. My daughter is still happy with her "Hello Kitty" castle set from last year. I'm still happy with the Swiss Army knife my husband gave me; I use it every day.
May my friend and her daughters find value and contentment in something small and given with love. May all of you find contentment in gifts of love without ruining your credit.
May the true meaning of Christmas finally break through.
Holt is a wife, mother and student at Merced College. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.