For all intents and purposes Christmas has become a secular holiday. Sure, if you dig down deep the root idea behind all the gift giving, Christmas trees and Santa Clauses can be traced back to Jesus. But you have to do a lot of digging, and despite the continual reminders about the ‘reason for the season,’ Jesus really takes a backseat.
That’s why I like projects like Advent Conspiracy and Water for Christmas. The idea behind Advent Conspiracy is to remind people what Christmas is all about and encourage a radical redefinition and reinterpretation of the holiday. Water for Christmas is a challenge that as Americans we spend $450 billion on Christmas, yet it would only take $144 billion to ensure that everyone has access to clean water. (Shane Claiborne writes a little more passionately about these issues as related to Buy Nothing Day.)
As a family we’re trying to redefine what Christmas means for us. This year we’re instituting a new idea. Half the money we spend on one another is going to be donated to a cause. Part of the Christmas fun will be picking what cause (or causes) you’d like to donate your Christmas money to. It means we’ll get half the usual presents from each other and we’ll be able to donate more. It’s a small step, but I really like the idea.
Part of the fun of our new idea of Christmas will be helping our kids decide where to give their money. We’ve talked to Lexi about it a few times, trying to get the idea to sink in, and so far she wants to donate her money to Ethiopia, where we’re adopting from. So we’ll have to pick an organization in Ethiopia to donate to.
In the past few years we’ve started making donations instead of giving presents to our grandparents. They seem to appreciate it, especially since there’s nothing they really need anymore. I like taking this idea and applying it to our immediate family. It means Christmas is about more than opening presents on Christmas morning, which is easily where all the attention ends up when you have kids in the house.
Imagine if Christmas became less about lights and trees and presents, and more about what we do for others.