Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Newest Christmas Tradition

We started a new tradition this Christmas season, and I think it's going to be a good one.

You see, I have a love/hate relationship with the Christmas season.

I love Christmas music on the radio, and Christmas lights, seeing extended family, sending out Christmas cards (which we FINALLY did). I love receiving Christmas cards and making goodies for our friends.

But as the kids have gotten older, it has become more and more important for Brandon and me to use the Christmas season as a teaching opportunity. To teach them that Christmas is not about them getting everything on their Christmas list. We have been focusing very little on gifts, and what "they want to get" for Christmas. We haven't even visited Santa this year, and I don't think that we are going to. We want to teach our children generosity. Remind them that God has given them everything they need, and not everyone is as fortunate as they are with the material gifts they have been given. We want them to learn to enjoy the process of giving to others, without focusing on things they may not be getting. This has been pulling at Brandon and me more and more over the last couple of years, and this year we are doing something about it.

We had a little talk with Santa this year, and found out several weeks ago exactly how much money he was going to be paying his elves to make the toys for our children. We decided that we were going to match that dollar amount to money that we spend on those who have far less than we do. (This also has kept Santa accountable to not going too overboard on gifts for my children, who have a playroom full of toys, closets full of clothes, and bookshelves full of books.) Dane and Aidan decided that instead of receiving presents from Mom and Dad this year (we'll involve the girls more when they speak English and have stopped using their foot as a telephone) they wanted to instead give gifts to other families who wouldn't have any.

So last Friday we sat down at the kitchen table, with a stack of 5 and 10 dollar bills equivilent to what Santa had already spent.

(Despite best intentions, Santa still spent more this Christmas than he intended. Four kids add up fast!). We pulled out the gift catalog for Heifer International and got to shopping.
Heifer International is an organization that donates livestock and other sustainable resources to farmers and families in third world countries, creating a potential source of food, milk, and income. One of our goals this year was to actively involve the kids in giving to others, remembering that all of our needs have been met. The boys loved reading about all of the animals, learning how much of an impact "their" money could make for a family in need. Aidan saw the picture of the pig, and he was sold. The pig in the catalog looked a little bit like this,

and Aidan has been talking about the "cow-pig" he bought ever since. The next evening Aidan asked us if we were going to get cages for all of the animals he and Dane were getting, because he was worried about his cow-pig pooping on the floor. We had yet another talk about how these animals are not (ARE NOT) coming to live at our house, but they will be given to help another family.

Dane chose to get some honeybees,

a flock of ducks, geese, and chickens,

and a couple of shares of a water buffalo,

rabbits, and a pig.

Aidan is very concerned that Dane's chickens are going to eat the honeybees. We explained to him that the animals were not all going to the same person, but needless to say, Aidan's thoughts were very occupied by these animals for a couple of days.

We had five dollars left, and Dane pitched in five dollars of his own money so he could get a share of rabbits* for a family.

*Please don't ask me what rabbits have to do with sustainable farmland in third world countries. Something about manure? There are many different charitable organizations, one of the primary reasons we picked this one is because we knew the boys would enjoy it. We want our kids to learn to enjoy giving to others, even knowing that they would get fewer gifts for Christmas because of it.

This was a great experience with our kids, and I am so proud of them for having such a great attitude and giving generously. I look forward to doing something like this with them every year!


Dana Dill said...

Love this! This was our first year to buy chickens instead of gifts for others using Mission Lazarus. What a wonderful tradition to start with your children!!

Hyperactive Lu said...

What a wonderful thing to do! Will definitely have to do this next year! Came over from the Lugars...