Written by Sherri Cook, Contributing Writer
The day after Thanksgiving when friends jokingly ask me if I'm finished with my Christmas shopping, I can always surprise them with an answer in the affirmative. At my house, not only have we finished the shopping, we've also finished the wrapping as well as the unwrapping.
How do we do this? It's certainly not because we're an ultra-organized family! We have simply chosen to have our gift exchange at Thanksgiving instead of at Christmas.
The results? We find more every year, so there are way too many to list, but here are a few for you to mull over:
- our family can focus on Christ's birth celebration with all our hearts - not wanting and wishing and hoping for gifts for ourselves
- we can turn our energies toward others for the entire time between Thanksgiving and Christmas
- we find peace in being able to serve others without feeling the stress that used to accompany our Christmas season
Why do we do this? To separate gifts and gift giving from our Christmas celebration.
Several years ago my husband and I were in a debate with our consciences. Our children were toddlers (and some weren't even born yet!) so they didn't grasp much about the holidays. He and I had quite different experiences as children during the holidays. When we married, we were determined to establish our own family traditions - a mix of all the good we had as children.
But, each year we became and more and more frustrated that we hadn't found what worked for us yet. Trying to emphasize the celebration of the Christ child's birth and a servant's spirit while being surrounded by the consumerism imposed by our culture was leaving us dumbfounded.
Our 10th year of matrimony was a turning point for us. With the birth of our third child on the horizon and our eldest daughter able to form lasting memories we knew we had to "find our own way" and fast.
It was then that I read an article in a Focus on the Family magazine about celebrating Christmas at Thanksgiving. As I devoured the words from the booklet I held in my hands, a distinct peace encompassed me. This was it. This was the answer. The solution to our dilemma. The mother writing the article spoke of how simply giving gifts at Thanksgiving instead of at Christmas changed the lives of her family and I immediately wanted it to change ours, too!
We now teach our children that we are thankful for the people in our lives and that is why we select gifts that expresses the thankfulness we feel in our hearts toward them. We start off our Thanksgiving month with festive Fall decor and our Thankful Tree.
When Thanksgiving Day arrives, not only do we give thanks for all the traditional reasons for the holiday, but we also incorporate one another in a special way. It is on Thanksgiving Day that we show our appreciation by exchanging gifts from our heart - an outpouring of what the people in our lives mean to us. It flows quite naturally.
This allows our children all the excitement of opening presents and the wonder of what is behind the pretty wrappers. And, it kicks off our celebration of others. While we are in a super-sized giving state of mind, we plan what we will do for others over the next month. Just like so many of you do, we celebrate our Savior's birth as He lived His life - by giving of our lives to show His love.
Many of you reading this article may be thinking to yourselves that Christmas as you know it works just fine for your family. You may be able to get everything done with a cheerful spirit without any modifications. If this is you, I invite you to consider this alternate way of exchanging gifts as an experiment. Your family might like it so much you may spark a new tradition!
From my family to yours, may you all have a blessed, peaceful Christmas, no matter when you exchange your gifts.