Christmas expenses can mount up quickly when you have a large family. Santa Claus puts things like socks, underwear, deodorant, razors, bubble bath, books, and a few pieces of candy in the boys’ stockings each year, but even these little things really add up so when my boys wanted to buy gifts for each other, I had to come up with a better idea.
The boys and I talk in little bursts all year about the gift of Jesus Christ so when Christmas rolls around, I don’t lecture or try to impose a sudden appreciation for the baby’s birth. Jesus is such an amazing gift, in part, because he gave of himself.
The question became, “How can we give as Jesus gave?”
Throughout the year, the boys and I volunteer in various ways and yet, when I looked at the activities we volunteered for, I noticed we did not include things we do to help each other. Every day we work as a family and help each other, but we tend to take these “volunteer opportunities” for granted when they should mean the most. This is what led to our idea to give as Jesus did within our own family.
Secret Santa – Our Way to Give as Jesus Gave
We each put our name in a hat and then, when all names are in, we take turns pullling out one. If you get your own name, you put it back and try again. Even the baby can pick a name although I “help” him with his gift. From the time the names are pulled until Christmas Eve, we do kind things for each other and try not to get caught. The things we do can be anything from making a bed to pouring cereal, doing a small chore, or letting your brother have the favorite seat in the car. These are small but meaningful gifts.
Sometimes those little things are tough to do since they take commitment over an extended period of time. The kids (and I) often start out with a bang and then slow down over time. When that happens, we talk about what it takes to stick to your commitment and how to examine your own thoughts and actions to change outcomes, lessons I hope they will apply to other areas of life.
A “Real” Gift to Open
This still didn’t solve the desire to give a “real” gift so we decided that each person would also make a gift for his Secret Santa. Over the years, we have given each other hand drawn signs of favorite sports teams, key chains, wood and soap carvings, baked goods, and picture frames among other things. We are allowed to use anything we find that does not have another purpose. An old picture frame and a forgotten picture suddenly become a family showpiece, new recipes have become family favorites, and baby scribbles with hand written explanations have been dated and tucked away in the boys’ treasure boxes to be kept forever.
The Gift Exchange
On Christmas Eve, hot chocolate and cookies are handed out and gifts are exchanged. One at a time, gifts are exchanged and unwrapped as the stories begin to unfold of how hard the giver worked and the number of times he was almost caught. Laughter over the boys’ antics and their dramatic reenactments fill the house, and the spirit of giving infects us all as we try to top each other’s stories about close calls and difficulties in putting together the perfect gift.
Each gift is valued because of the effort put into it, and there is never a criticism since, no matter what the gift really looks like, we all know the giver put his best work into it. The younger boys are often impressed with the abilities of their older brothers and find new reasons to admire them while the older boys are often amused by the thought processes and attempts the younger ones put into their gifts. They find it difficult to believe that not long ago they had similar ideas and created simliar works of art. It is a humbling and thrilling event.
Secret Santa teaches many lessons that just cannot be found in a store bought gift. The hard work, thought, and laughter and stories over the gift exchange are memories that will stay with us long after the gifts themselves have disappeared.
God Bless you all and Merry Christmas!