Celebrating Christmas—Which Gifts Keep On Giving?

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By Elana B

When my sister and I were young, and still believed in the picture-book Santa with his bag of toys, we decided to stay up as late as possible on Christmas Eve, hoping to catch a glimpse of him, if not his reindeer. Our house was small, didn’t have a fireplace, but we weren’t worried about the details since we’d received gifts before with tags signed by “Santa Claus,” and knew he didn’t need a chimney because he could walk in our front door. My sister was five-and-a-half and I was three–we were stubborn and determined.

On December 24th, our parents put us to bed. We pretended to be asleep—our bedroom was just off the entry to our house with the living room and Christmas tree in full view from our doorway. I still don’t know how the two of us were able to stay awake without making any noise, but stay awake we did. About 10:30, we heard a noise. Oh, the excitement—we peeked out, expecting to find a “jolly old elf” putting our gifts under the tree, but, oh my! We saw our parents instead—It was a shocking, Norman Rockwell kind of moment. The magic of Christmas went poof in the night! We quietly got back into bed, and never told anyone what we saw—the truth about Santa. My sister, Jeannie, and I had made a pact that night not to tell. We thought it would mean no more gifts, and we weren’t willing to risk that. We later learned, at the age most kids find out that Santa is not real, that, even without believing in “Ho, ho, ho,” we would still find gifts under the tree.

As a young child, although I was excited about receiving gifts, I spent a lot of time during the Christmas season thinking about what to buy for family members and best friends. Money was limited, and Woolworth’s was my shopping “mall.” I loved walking up and down the aisles with my gift list, carefully choosing, and then wrapping each little gift and putting a tag on it. Finding “just the right” gift was important. It took thought and time to find something special for each person. I’ve been buying Christmas gifts now for almost 65 years. The amount of money I spend fluctuates, where I shop has changed, the number of recipients also changes, as do their ages, and preferences, but one things remains the same—I still want to give something special, that will have value, be used often and be appreciated. I have finally realized that it isn’t the amount of money I spend on each gift, or the amount of time I take to find the “right” thing, or how beautifully wrapped it is. If I believe in the real purpose for Christmas gifts—the giving part, the generous part, the value part—then I have to believe that the best gifts, the ones that keep on giving, that can make the recipient’s life better, more fulfilling, more joyful, are the gifts that require no money.

“If you desire to find the true spirit of Christmas and partake of the sweetness of it, let me make this suggestion: During the hurry of this Christmas season, find time to turn your heart to God—in the quiet hours, in a quiet place, and on your knees—alone or with loved ones—give thanks for the good things that have come to you, and ask that His spirit might dwell in you as you earnestly strive to serve Him and keep His commandments. He will take you by the hand and His promises will be kept.” (Howard W. Hunter, “The Gifts of Christmas,” 1994)
He further suggested we “mend a quarrel; dismiss suspicion and replace it with trust; write a letter; encourage a friend; forego a grudge; apologize; express your gratitude; see the beauty of the earth; speak your love and speak it again.”

With these gifts, there is no need for fancy wrapping, no worries about “will it fit,” is the color right, will the recipient use it, enjoy it, will it last, does he or she need it. At Christmas and every day, you can choose to live the truths behind the celebration, a gift that keeps on giving, and one that honors the greatest gift of all—the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.

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