Thursday, December 11, 2008

A New Celebration of Christmas

Around the same time two years ago, I found myself completely overwhelmed with demands of business, social obligations, and the holidays season. It was so bad that it started me thinking about what kind of life style I wanted and how much control I really had over mine. I observed at the same time that everyone in my family, and in fact in my circle of friends and colleagues, was whining about the stress of the holidays season.

Something in my brain reached a critical threshold and I suddenly had the strong desire to change my situation. Before my resolve could falter, I gathered my wife and three daughters and submitted to them an idea: what if we all agreed that we did not want nor need presents for Christmas; and what if instead we (individually or collectively) estimated the amount of money we usually spend on such presents and donated such amount to the charities of our choice?

I was expecting some resistance or a discussion. To my surprise everyone approved of the idea. And although we weren't sure how this would impact the whole holidays experience, we decided to go with it. We made one exception: Children under 12 years still get presents.

Christmas morning in our household is usually for opening presents. That year we just spent joyful time together. The girls decided to prepare rolled grapevine leaves, a middle eastern specialty. Everyone had to chip in. The hours spent together around the kitchen table made for the best Christmas memories we ever had. One by one I started hearing comments on how wonderful it was to escape the shopping frenzy and shed the season's stress. We all also felt that giving more to charities was much more in line with the spirit of Christmas.

This year is our third celebrating Christmas in this new way, and we're still loving it.

Season's greetings!

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