An Advent Perspective: The Gift of Self

Every Thanksgiving I mention it, “Let’s all make our gifts this year & focus on the true meaning of Christmas:  The gift of self.” A few years ago no one took me seriously until they opened their homemade ceramic candle holders. Another year it was handmade coiled baskets stuffed with homemade cookies. Last year I made little fabric snack-sacks & coffee cozies. I’m still working on this year’s gift theme, but I found a new pattern to sew that I think the family will appreciate & use often.

So why hasn’t my family taken the plunge into making their own Christmas gifts? I hear the usual lament of “But, you’re an artist! It’s easy for you!” That may be true in part, but I believe we are all meant for creativity. Creating, building, growing, caring, thinking, sharing and giving are part of what makes us human. Creativity & problem-solving are part of our human nature. Besides, people were celebrating Christmas in very loving ways long before Hallmark, Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and American Express brain-washed us into becoming the consumer zombies we are today!

I grew up with the “Brady Bunch,” the “Partridge Family,” “Little House on the Prairie,” and the “Walton’s.” Guess which families seemed more true to life for me? I can remember Laura Ingells telling Mr. Oleson (when he offered her a pencil “on credit”), “My Pa says never to buy anything on credit. If you can’t pay for something, you just do without.” Wise words! I also remember when all John-boy got for Christmas one year was a stack of composition books.  What better gift to give a budding young writer? Although TV families are not especially true-to-life, the sentiment that I took away was true enough: Gift-giving isn’t about the gift itself, it is about the relationship between the giver & the recipient.  Holidays, too, are about relationships, food (especially food!), love, and the gift of self.

I wrote about this last year & included some links to some of my favourite organizations where you can buy gifts of service in someone’s name or memory. Again this year I encourage you to celebrate family, food, and perhaps some new traditions that are more sustainable, life-affirming, and/or socially just.  Get creative with your gift-giving & think outside the box.  In fact, think WAY outside the Big Box [store]!!!

Please share in the comments section some of your creative ideas for sharing the “gift of self” with family & friends.

Merry Christmas, Peace & Joy, everyone!