Archive for October 2013

How to have the Christmas you’ve always wanted – part 8

October 26, 2013

A Simple Christmas

Think about your dream Christmas, your ideal Christmas celebration. Don’t worry about lack of money or lack of talent. Just imagine what you would do, where you would go, how you would celebrate your perfect Christmas. Most people’s ideal Christmas has four characteristics. It is simple, not elaborate. It is not expensive. Everyone gets along with each other; and the celebration is relaxing, not stressful.

Why don’t we have our fantasy Christmas every year? There’s two reasons. One, most fantasies involve a little magic. We don’t have an unlimited amount of money to spend on decorations or gifts or entertainment. We also don’t have an unlimited about of talent to create the all around perfect Christmas. Two, life’s unpleasant realities are filtered out of our fantasies. The teenagers aren’t so cooperative and interactive. Uncle George doesn’t lay of the alcohol. Mom spends all her time in the kitchen preparing the meal and cleaning up after everyone with little if any help.

Those aren’t the only deterrents to the simple Christmas. Look at all the television ads, the women’s magazines, and television shows aimed at homemakers. They persuade people to make their Christmas as elaborate, as expensive, and as busy as possible. Another deterrent is people’s aversion to change. They want to have the same Christmas they had last year, and the year before that, and the year before that. They have traditions and rituals that they want to keep even though the traditions make Christmas more complicated. Also Christmas makes people nostalgic. They want to enjoy the same activities they participated in as children and share those activities with their children. Family obligations are a third deterrent to a simple Christmas. It can be hard to plan around a bed-ridden family member who relies on you for all their needs.

The following exercise will allow you to examine your fantasy Christmas and help you see what aspects of it you can incorporate into your Christmas celebration.

Exercise: A Christmas Fantasy
The following fantasy exercise will give you a clearer idea of what you are really looking for in Christmas. When you are through reading these
instructions, close you eyes and imagine Christmas two years from now. We have chosen this length of time because it’s far enough away to give you some distance from your current celebration, but not so far away that a lot of your circumstances will have changed.

When you are ready to begin, choose a quiet location where you won’t be interrupted for ten or fifteen minutes. Imagine any kind of Christmas you wish as long as it is deeply satisfying. You can confine your fantasy to Christmas proper, or include the whole season. It may be very much like you present celebration or entirely different. You can magically include your favorite friends and relatives and make them behave any way you wish. You can celebrate in any setting. You don’t have to keep a single traditional Christmas activity, or you can keep them all. This will be Christmas the way you have always wanted it to be.

As you begin to fantasize, there will probably be a jumble of possibilities competing for your attention. If you find yourself with multiple fantasies, keep returning to the ideas that make you feel most satisfied.

Once you have settled on a particular fantasy, stick with it until you have enriched it with lots of details. Imagine the physical setting, the activities, how you are feeling, and how other people are feeling. What kind of food is there? How was it made? Are there any gifts? What are they like?

When you have completed your fantasy, write it down on a separate sheet (or sheets) of paper. Feel free to elaborate as you write. Then answer these questions:

1. Of all the ways your fantasy was different from your usual celebration, which difference was most satisfying to you?
2. Which parts (if any) of your fantasy would be most feasible to actually do next Christmas?

The Christmas Pledge

Believing in the beauty and simplicity of Christmas, I commit myself to the following:
1. To remember those people who truly need my gifts
2. To express my love for family and friends in more direct ways than presents
3. To rededicate myself to the spiritual growth of my family
4. To examine my holiday activities in light of the true spirit of Christmas
5. To initiate one act of peacemaking within my circle of family and friends

The material presented here was taken from the book Unplug The Christmas Machine by Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock Staeheli published by William Morrow and Company, Inc.

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How to have the Christmas you’ve always wanted – part 7

October 19, 2013

The Gift of Joy

What is it that people want from Christmas? They dream of white Christmases.
They want to be home for Christmas if only in their dreams. They dream of
walking in winter wonderlands and shopping surrounded by happy shoppers
listening to silver bells. But is that really what they want? No. What
people really want is a sense of fulfillment, joy, and worth; they want the gift
of joy.

How can you get that elusive gift of joy? You must identify what you feel is
most important about Christmas. Identify what you value most about Christmas.

Doing this will involve making choices, sometimes between two equally good
things. “Should I direct the church Christmas program or bake cookies with the
kids to give away as Christmas gifts?” Both are good things to do. The values
that you’ve identified will help you make that decision.

Why do I have to identify these values? Can’t I just wing it? When you
identify your values ahead of time you are resolving the issues ahead of time.
It is easier to make your decisions because you’ve already decided what’s most
important to you. Don’t resolve the issues ahead of time and you may end up
doing nothing and regretting it later.

Identifying what’s most important to you also keeps you from spending all your
time on activities and projects that aren’t right for you. If you’re not
musically gifted you may not want to join a Christmas choir. On the other hand
if you are really good at crafts you may want to make your gifts this Christmas.

Identifying what’s most important to you and what your values are will help you
get that sense of fulfillment, joy, and worth you’re looking for this Christmas.
The following exercise will help you identify what’s most important to you at
Christmas.

Exercise: What Are You Celebrating?
In general, people ask Christmas to do too many things for them. They want it
to strengthen their family bonds, give their spirits a lift in the dark days of
winter, stimulate their compassion and generosity, help them keep tabs on
far-flung friends, confirm their deepest religious beliefs, show off their
skills as hosts and hostesses, establish their rank in the social order . . .
the list goes on and on. No one celebration can do it all.

This values-clarification exercise will help you decide which parts of Christmas
are most deserving of your efforts. Once you have decided that, you will be
able to plan a celebration that is in harmony with your deepest beliefs and
expressive of who you are as an individual.

To complete the exercise, read through the following ten value statements below,
cross off those that have no importance to you, and add any equally important
ones that we have not included. Then decide which of the remaining values is
most important to you. Put a 1 beside the sentence. Then find the one that is
next important to you and put a 2 beside it. Continue in this manner until each
statement has been assigned a different number. Even a value that has a low
priority can still be important to you. Remember: 1 is highest and 10 is
lowest.

Christmas is a time to be a peacemaker, within my family and the world at large.
Christmas is a time to enjoy being with my immediate family.
Christmas is a time to create a beautiful home environment.
Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of Christ.
Christmas is a time to exchange gifts with my family and friends.
Christmas is a time for parties, entertaining, and visits with friends.
Christmas is a time to help those who are less fortunate.
Christmas is a time to strengthen bonds with my relatives.
Christmas is a time to strengthen my church community.
Christmas is a time to take a few days off from work and have a good time.

The Christmas Pledge

Believing in the beauty and simplicity of Christmas, I commit myself to the
following:
1. To remember those people who truly need my gifts
2. To express my love for family and friends in more direct ways than presents
3. To rededicate myself to the spiritual growth of my family
4. To examine my holiday activities in light of the true spirit of Christmas
5. To initiate one act of peacemaking within my circle of family and friends

The material presented here was taken from the book Unplug The Christmas Machine
by Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock Staeheli published by William Morrow and
Company, Inc.

How to have the Christmas you’ve always wanted – part 6

October 8, 2013

Inside The Christmas Machine

Mention gift-giving to a group of people and you’ll get a variety of responses.
While they get pleasure from giving gifts to the special people in their lives,
they have problems with the Christmas gift-giving thing. One problem they have
is they feel they have to give elaborate, expensive gifts. Commercials on the
television and radio, store ads, and store displays shout, “The more you buy and
the more you spend show how much you love the ones on your gift list.” They
just can’t afford giving these gifts. Another problem they have is that
exchanging gifts at Christmas has very little value. They’re either trying to
give something to someone who already has everything or they’re not able tailor
each gift to the needs or desires of the recipient. One of the biggest problems
people have with Christmas gift-giving, however, is the spiritual aspect of
Christmas is drowned out by the commercial aspect. Stores are saying, “Spend,
spend, spend.” Children are saying, “Gimme, gimme, gimme.” Rarely outside of
churches will you hear, “Christmas is Jesus’ birthday. Happy birthday, Jesus!”

So, how can we simplify Christmas gift-giving? One thing we can do is break the
10 unspoken self-defeating gift-giving rules:
1. Give a gift to everyone you expect to get one from.
2. If someone gives you a gift unexpectedly, you should reciprocate that year,
even if you had no previous intention of giving that person a present.
3. When you give someone a gift, you should plan to give that person a gift
every year thereafter.
4. The amount of time and money you spend on a gift should be directly
proportional to how much you care about the recipient.
5. The gift that you give someone should be equal in monetary value and/or
personal significance to the one you receive from that person.
6. The presents you give someone should be fairly consistent over the years.
7. If you give a gift to a person in one category (for example: coworkers or
neighbors) you should give gifts to everyone in that category. And these gifts
should be similar.
8. The gifts you give your children should be equal in number and monetary
value, while at the same time suiting the unique qualities of each child.
9. Men should not give gifts to their male friends, unless the gifts are
alcoholic beverages. Women, however, are encouraged to give gifts to their
female friends, and those gifts should not be alcohol.
10. Homemade gifts are more “meaningful” than store-bought ones.

A second thing we can do is give token gifts. Either make them yourself or shop
for them at garage sales or thrift stores. Some families make a game of this by
seeing who can give the most interesting gift for the least amount of money.

Giving gifts of time and energy is a third way we can simplify our gift-giving.
Give coupon books that the recipient can redeem for various acts of kindness or
gifts of time, or offer to do a chore for a month or some other period or time.

A fourth idea is give a donation to those in need or to the recipient’s favorite
charity in lieu of a gift. Even teenagers go for these gifts.

No matter what you come up with to simplify your gift-giving, gifts given with
love and sensitivity give Christmas fresh meaning.

The following exercises will help you examine and simplify your gift-giving this
year.

Exercise 1: Gift Inventory
In the space below, list all the people you gave gifts to last year. Be sure to
include friends, neighbors, coworkers, and children of friends or neighbors.
Put a dollar sign by each person you spent more than ten dollars on.

Exercise 2: Four Gift Fantasies
1. Imagine yourself in hte following situations and check the ones that are
most appealing to you.
A. You open the mail one morning and discover that you have inherited $250
to spend on Christmas presents this year.
B. You are given two weeks of absolutely free time to devote to making
Christmas gifts.
C. Every member of your family is excited about exchanging simpler and
less expensive gifts.
D. Everyone in the nation decides to eliminate gift-giving from the
celebration. There is no holiday advertising, no gift-giving obligations.
People celebrate Christmas by joining with family and friends, by feasting, and
with family and community Christmas activities.

2. Judging by your reactions to these imaginary situations, what changes would
you ideally like to make in your family gift-giving?

Exercise 3: Gift Memories
1. Think back over past Christmases and remember a gift that you received that
gave you great pleasure. What did you especially like about that gift?

2. Now remember a gift you received that make you feel anxious, confused,
angry, or disappointed. What was it about that situation that bothered you?

3. All in all, what kind of gifts do you feel best about receiving and giving?

The Christmas Pledge

Believing in the beauty and simplicity of Christmas, I commit myself to the
following:
1. To remember those people who truly need my gifts
2. To express my love for family and friends in more direct ways than presents
3. To rededicate myself to the spiritual growth of my family
4. To examine my holiday activities in light of the true spirit of Christmas
5. To initiate one act of peacemaking within my circle of family and friends

The material presented here was taken from the book Unplug The Christmas Machine
by Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock Staeheli published by William Morrow and
Company, Inc.

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