Each year my husband’s extended family gets together the week before Christmas to shop as a family for another family. About 20 years ago (give or take a couple), they realized that they could take the money they spent on gifts for each other and help make Christmas that much more special for a needy family in their area. They would get the name of a family from the local school and then get together one night and gulp back dinner while dividing up the task force. Some people would hit the supermarket and load up on all the fixings for a Christmas dinner with groceries to spare while others spread out in Zellers shopping for individual members of the family.
Recently we have started to shop for a family or individual women that are spending Christmas at Interval House (a safe haven for abused women) and we are given a list of items they can use. We’ve also ditched the grocery shopping thanks to supermarket gift cards. Now they can shop as they see fit. Then we all head back to Sharon’s house (it’s always Sharon’s house) and wrap up the gifts to be delivered the next day.
Note that my father-in-law is one of nine, so there are always lots of people to contribute and everybody just chips in whatever they can afford. A smaller clan could always just shop for toys for a local children’s charity or even just kick in whatever they can toward the gift card. (Though we like to make an event out of it.) Obviously everyone still buys gifts for their own immediate families, but now the money spent on thoughtful knickknacks for “family gifts” goes toward a much better cause. If you see a similar pattern in your own family (and even if you don’t), consider instituting a tradition like this. Because giving really can be more fun than receiving.
(Image courtesy of Ben Garney on Flickr.)