The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Cutting back this Christmas?

Easing back from holiday consumerism is freeing

If the economy has you ratcheting back your family's Christmas celebration this year, you're not alone. Job losses and salary cuts are making parents think twice about how many gifts they'll put under the tree.


The good news? Downsizing your family's stack of presents may be one of the best steps toward enjoying a more meaningful Christmas, said Jo Robinson, co-author of Unplug the Christmas Machine: A Complete Guide to Putting Love and Joy Back into the Season (Harper, 1991).

"Kids' gifts at Christmas aren't just $20 today. Now they can be more like $200," said Robinson, who has studied the nation's holiday spending habits for almost 30 years. "There's something really wrong with that."

Whether it's prompted by financial necessity or a desire for simpler celebrations, easing back from holiday consumerism can free up more time and energy for families to focus on the true gifts in their lives: the presence of God and their relationships with others.

Parents teach kids how to enjoy a richer, more soul-(satisfying Christmas when they:

• Celebrate the season, not just the day. Look at the liturgical calendar and you'll see that Christmas in the church is a 12-day festival. By observing the entire season, parents help frame Christmas as something more than a one-day-only toy bonanza. It instead becomes an extended holiday for rejoicing in Jesus' birth and all of God's abundant gifts. "Christmas should be the beginning of the celebration, not the flaming end of it," Robinson said.

• Deepen the conversation about gift-giving. Talk as a family about how you each can "give gifts" to the Christ Child by reaching out to others throughout the 12-day Christmas season. Donate old toys and outgrown clothes to charity, bring cans to a food pantry or let your child pick an organization to help.


Rebecca Stolee

Rebecca Stolee

Posted at 12:14 pm (U.S. Eastern) 12/3/2009

We too had an issue of grandparents buying lots of gifts.  My Mother eventually came up with the idea to give 3 gifts to each child (like the wise men)and that was significantly better.  Now that she is on a fixed income there is no issue over spending money.  We are enjoying the joy and love of each other's company around the holidays!

Bev Draeger

Bev Draeger

Posted at 1:00 am (U.S. Eastern) 12/11/2009

After several years of a pile of gifts extending beyond the tree, we down sized our giving. Each family member brings a "White Elephant' gift.. After drawing numbers, gifts are chosen in numerical order. What fun we have with lots of laughter. We can also steal gifts if we see one we want rather than taking changes from those left to choose from. I also now give to God's Global Barnyard in memory of in honor of friends and family. We all have too much stuff, Now there is no need to wonder what color, size or style.

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