Have you ever thought about why you give gifts to people?
I give gifts to people because I enjoy giving them; there doesn't even have to be an occasion. If I see something unique or interesting (or on sale) that I think somebody would like, I may buy it. I usually get too excited, though, to wait four months until a birthday or Christmas or some other special occasion to give it to that person. If the gift is as special as the person is, I want to give it to that person right away. I call those the "Just because..." gifts or the "Thinking of you" gifts. It brings me joy. I delight in the look on a person's face when he or she gets a present that wasn't expected. Joy!
When I was little, I made extravagantly long wish lists to give to Santa. I had fun doing it, and I had fun daydreaming about the toys on my list. I was never upset when I didn't get them (and it was rare that I did); my parents usually had better ideas anyway. My happiness didn't come from getting something expensive or trendy. One of my favorite gifts when I was five years old was when my brother stealthily swiped my favorite stuffed animal from my bed early Christmas morning. I looked all over for the animal; I couldn't start opening presents without him! Finally, my brother handed me a big package and suggested I open it first. Ah! There was my dear animal! I laughed at how clever he (my brother) was. In fact, it became a running joke for years, as we passed the stuffed animal back and forth at birthdays and Christmases. That was one of my most memorable Christmas gifts, and it was something that was already mine! Unexpected joy!
It seems to me, though, that many people look at their list of family members and grudgingly try to find some trinket or gadget for them. These are the gifts that don't come from the heart; they only come from the wallet. And, generally speaking, these are the least special gifts (although there are exceptions). Joy is priceless; it isn't sold at the mall.
It should not be a chore to go Christmas shopping, and it doesn't have to be expensive. Sometimes the best gifts are the homemade ones that you put time, effort, thought, and love into. In my experience, at least, making gifts for people has always brought me a sense of accomplishment and pleasure. One of my favorite parts of Christmas is watching the expressions on people's faces as they open their presents. Although I love to open presents as much as anyone, it's not the exciting part of Christmas for me. Christmas isn't about getting the latest video or an expensive new purse; it's about being with family and friends and spreading joy. After all, it's not our birthdays we're celebrating; it's Jesus's.
I used to always make my Christmas gifts when I was little. Although I'm not sure how much my family liked them, I loved coming up with ideas. Christmas tree ornaments are easy and fun (and cheap) to make--and you can personalize them; I made a lot of those (and they still hang on my parents' tree each year). Christmas cookies are almost always appreciated too. And, having a cup of tea while you chat with a friend is a relaxing holiday treat.
You could write a poem to someone or paint a picture. Sometimes these are the gifts that have the most meaning, last the longest (they aren't usually out at the next season's garage sale), and they cost very little.
This is my plan this year: I am going to use items around the house to make my Christmas cards, and I am going to make as many presents as possible. The people I give gifts to don't really need or want "things" anyway. Useful, homemade gifts are the way to go for my family and friends. So, think about making your gifts this year; or, if someone needs something that he or she hasn't bought for him or herself, think about buying it from a locally owned business. See if you can avoid chain stores this year. Think about how nice it would be not to have to be back in the stores on December 26th, returning and exchanging all those clothes that don't fit and gadgets that don't have enough memory. Think about not having big credit card bills next month, or think about using the money you saved to help less fortunate families have a happier holiday. Most of all, think about joy and the real reason for the holiday.
How will you spread Christmas joy this year?