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Photo by Kekka
Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario. And for the last 8 years, I have written 4 Christmas columns a year. That’s 32 Christmas columns. It’s becoming harder and harder to find new things to say! Luckily, I’ve received a bunch of emails asking me to re-explain The Three Gifts of Christmas that I’ve written about for two years in a row now, so this week I decided to oblige. Enjoy:

I love Christmas. I love the tree, and the turkey, and the story, and the candlelight service, and being with family.

What I don’t love is Christmas in November. To me, Christmas is a special time of year; it’s not special all year. When Christmas decorations go up before Hallowe’en, I have to put my foot down. Apparently Harrod’s in London, England erected a Christmas display in August! I guess when Christmas accounts for up to 40% of many retailers’ annual sales, they want to extend it as long as possible.

Forgive me, though, if I don’t want to help them. Of course it makes sense to do your shopping early. But rushing around like a tasmanian devil on December 20 is part of getting in the Christmas spirit. Putting up a tree on November 10 just seems weird. There’s a part of me that wishes Christmas could go back to being simplistic: we exchange a few gifts, enjoy a far too large meal, and visit with family. That sounds very Norman Rockwell. Buying everyone you know crap doesn’t fit as well into that idyllic picture. It just makes us look like dupes.

And I wonder if that’s what we are. All the Christmas marketing has convinced us that we have to buy gifts for everyone who crosses our path, from the Girl Guide leader and the children’s teacher to nosy co-workers and noisy neighbours. All we’re doing, though, is increasing the amount of junk in the world.

Our family has our own Christmas tradition when it comes to Christmas, and it’s one I’ve mentioned for the last two years in this column. I keep receiving emails every November asking for me to write about it again, so I thought I’d take this column to oblige.

I have decided that I don’t want Christmas in our house to be a gift haul. I want it to be meaningful. I’m not going to eschew gift giving altogether; I do love the opportunity to give my children things that can bring joy on that day. And giving is intrinsic to Christmas, since Christmas is all about God’s gift to us.

I just want to make sure that this giving is done with some thought. Thus, in our family we have the Three Gifts of Christmas: Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. The gold gift is something they want, like an iPod. The frankincense gift is something they need, like pyjamas or beauty products (those are big in my house), and the myrrh gift is something that nurtures their spirit. That’s always the hardest one to come up with, but that makes it the most special, because it’s also the most individual and personal. It may be a journal, or a magazine subscription, or a book, or a CD or a DVD. Whatever it is, it’s something that challenges your loved one to go deeper in character and faith, but also reflects exactly who they were made to be.
I began doing this just for my children, but this year I’m going to extend it to my husband and well. I like the idea, because it limits the number of gifts we buy, but it also makes each gift more meaningful.

I love choosing presents for those I love, but I fear we’ve lost sight of the point of the holiday. You can’t buy gratitude and faith and family and friends at Harrod’s, even in August. Once I started to rethink how and why we buy gifts, though, that bah humbug I all too often used to utter has just about disappeared.

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