Christmas giving

“To: GOD! From: Kelly!

Dear God,

I’m exitet For you’r Birth-Day, at Chrismas!!

Love, Kelly”


I know it’s terribly uncouth to mention the word “Christmas” too early, but I waited as long as I could. Could we just call it “The busy season of merriment and festivities that fast approacheth” for short?

It’s coming.

It’s been years since I’ve looked forward to it with such joy.

For one thing, Kelly has been longing for it since August, when we heard a chorus program that shook her world. They’re releasing their CD in December.

For another, it marks my baby’s first birthday. Everyone told me how much I would hate having a Christmas baby, but I loved waiting for The Baby both literally and figuratively, and I loved having all the hustle behind me by the time Christmas came, because of my obsessive nesting and preparing. (I think I bought the last of my presents on Halloween.) It was a very gentle holiday, quiet and reflective and sweet. Now each year when we celebrate Jesus and Jenny, the house will be festive for a month, and music will be playing, and twinkle lights will be sparkling.

Buying presents always creates a mixture of happiness and angst for me. Giving gifts is one of my favorite ways to love people, but giving so many at one time, and suiting them perfectly to their recipients, calls for much thought.

Three things have simplified the season for me.

First, shopping ahead and shopping online. I don’t ever again want to spend most of my December hunting frantically through crowded stores for just the thing for Uncle Dan. I love having so many good things arriving at my door in mysterious brown boxes and getting squirreled away under my bed.

Second, having our children exchange names among themselves. Now instead of supervising the headache of three to five cheap presents per child, I can help them choose one nice one. We set a $10 guideline: each child contributes five dollars of his own saved money from allowances and odd jobs, and we parents match it. It’s amazing what you can buy with ten dollars: 3-D puzzles, science kits, board books, endless crafts, durable toys. (I’ll share more ideas next time.)

And third, finding a workable plan for extended family giving.

In my Coblentz family, we’ve designated a different couple to do the planning each Christmas, starting with Dad and Mom the first year, my oldest brother and his wife the next year, and so on down through the family. We can each plan whatever giving we’d like, within reason. It has worked like a charm. One year we pooled our money to give to a sibling who’d had huge medical stress and expense. One year we drew names and exchanged homemade gifts. One year we gave only to the children, mailing packages to those who couldn’t come home. This year we’re stuffing stockings, choosing small items for everyone. I love it—endless variety, easy planning, and very little stress.

On the Zook side, we couples give simple presents to each other, often homemade: bath scrubs, drink mixes, cheese and deer bologna, sweet treats, whatever.

It’s a season of joy, when Christmas gifts ought not to become synonymous with overspending and stress. How do you bring simplicity and joy to your giving?

Or is this too early to be discussing it?

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Joy Weaver
7 years ago

Oh Shari, I love it! I love Christmas,….but buying gifts is such a chore for me! Christmas growing up was VERY special to me….and I wanted it to be that way for our kids…and now we have 12 grandkids…Thanks so much for posting this!! Just “maybe” I will get started early getting gifts…but “don’t hold your breath”!

7 years ago

The adults in my husband’s family go out to eat instead of giving gifts. Usually in January. It’s so fun to look forward to an evening sans kids at a nice restaurant after the holiday rush.
And no stressing about gifts.
It’s my favorite Christmas tradition.

7 years ago

I’m ready to talk about it. I love your ideas on making Christmas giving less stressful and more meaningful and look forward to your gift ideas.

And I think I’m one person out of the “Everyone” who told you that being pregnant during the Christmas season was a good thing! I’ve had two experiences of being great with child in December and both were great. I think maybe one reason was because I took off all expectations of getting everything done and just enjoyed December. Also, that nesting that you mentioned really worked to get me in gear early. Glad it worked for you too.

Hope to hear more.

7 years ago
Reply to  Shari Zook

My little girl came on Dec 12 five years ago. One of the best Christmases I’ve ever had. 🙂 At our big holiday dinners I sat and cuddled my newborn while the others did the dishes!

7 years ago
Reply to  Rosina

Although I don’t normally believe in skipping off and leaving others to do the dishes…since I heard one of my unmarried friends say how painful it was to always be the one stuck with dishes while the mothers scurried around with their kids. After that, I made an concerted effort to always be available to help with dishes. But, this was one exception. 🙂

7 years ago

Shari, it’s never too early. I love Christmas time.

7 years ago

I’m ready for Christmas talk. I absolutely love all the merriment and festivities of this wonderful season. I am thrilled to hear of your happiness and joy this year!

Sorry, I am one of the friends who does not enjoy having a Christmas baby. I loved the experience of being pregnant through advent. And I remember holding my very newborn son on Christmas morning and feeling a strong connection to the vulnerable babe Jesus and his mother Mary.

What I don’t like is trying to celebrate my son’s birthday 3 days before Christmas when everyone’s calendars and thoughts and energies are turned toward their own Christmas celebrations.

I like your suggestion of seeing the entire month as celebrating Jesus and Jenny (in my case celebrating Jesus and Josh). Maybe I need to adjust my thinking and ummm….plan ahead a little better.

7 years ago

I’m all ears! Gift-giving is the most stressful part of Christmas for me. The list is long and ideas for inexpensive but meaningful gifts is short.
P.S. I’m expecting a baby in Jan so now I’m curious how I will feel about being great with child at Christmas. 🙂

Dana Laviano
7 years ago

Dear Shari,
I’ve just found your blog and am really enjoying it! I am also unusually excited about Advent and Christmas this year. Perhaps it is fatigue from the election ugliness we’ve all just lived through? I look forward to Advent every year as a precious time of peaceful stillness and anticipation for the incarnation. I prefer to keep things simple and usually succeed as I don’t have TV or the internet at home. That, along with keeping the radio off, spares me the non-stop deluge of commercials and Christmas songs. My two daughters are teens and so we’ve lost some of the old Christmas traditions they enjoyed when they were smaller but I’ve also found them more capable and willing to take a bigger part in other traditions like baking or gathering decorations from outside.
I am also a huge fan of online shopping and avoid stores at all costs! I have just one more gift to buy (next week) and I’ll be all done. This goes a long way I find to keeping the season peaceful. What would we do without online shopping?
Sorry to chat your ear off!
Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

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