Moving Toward Minimalism in Holidays


The Reliques and us!

The best birthday present I ever got was last year. My ♥awesomely♥wonderful♥husband♥ organized a surprise benefit concert for me, featuring Heath Aldridge and The Reliques. The money raised went to one of my very favorite charities, Voice of the Martyrs. I was so surprised and so delighted that I cried! I had never, ever had such an awesome birthday. I was SO happy to NOT receive presents, and to instead know that something truly useful and meaningful was being done with my friends’ and family members’ money. It was the best celebration ever.

(Side note: If you ever want to give me a present for my birthday or Christmas, you can never, ever go wrong by donating to VOM or to Take Root. In my name or not, I don’t care. I will be more excited about a gift like this than about really any other present you can think of — really!)

I struggle with holidays for many reasons, but gift-giving is one of the biggest. While I do want to celebrate and to see the people I love smiling and happy, I feel unsettled by trying to accomplish this with stuff. The whole ordeal — especially at Christmas — is just becoming increasingly contrary to my interest in shedding some of the earthly treasures I’ve stored up for myself:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
-Jesus, in Matthew 6:19-21

How does it then make sense to suspend that belief during holidays? Giving more stuff to people who (like me) already have so much stuff that there are boxes of stuff in their attics and in closets and maybe even in storage facilities… are these treasures in heaven? Where are our hearts? We have SO MUCH STUFF. We don’t need more stuff.

So is the answer to stop giving gifts? I doubt it. Gift-giving is Biblical. The wise men brought gifts to young King Jesus. God gives us gifts. Christians are called to give generously to God, to each other, and to the needy. My issue is not gift-giving in itself, but that American gift-giving is a little bit out of hand. And so, I’ve been really thinking about it. For years. While I typically still default to something material and not necessarily needed, because that’s what I know and because I often run out of time, I’ve been trying to slowly change.

100_2755For Mother’s Day, I made face, foot, and body scrubs. It took a little time and a couple of errands to get the supplies and ingredients, but I had fun with this project! It was fairly inexpensive to do, but more meaningful (I think) than many other gifts I could have simply bought.

For Father’s Day for my husband, I took him — just us! — on a canoe trip. I gave an experience, a memory, a great date doing something active and outdoors. I know my husband loves that kind of thing, and I know we don’t do enough of it, especially since the baby came. So I surprised him. He loved it! It was so much better than a tie.

canoeangela canoejustin

For my son’s upcoming birthdays, (yes, plural on purpose!), I’m working on a perpetual gift. I have a scrapbook in which I will, every year, add a personal birthday letter from me. I’ll also include on the page some pictures from the year. He’ll have that to look forward to every birthday — even though I know that for several of them later on, he will act like he’s too cool to care! It will be such a great keepsake in years to come, and he will have a tangible expression of my love even after I am gone.

For Christmas, oh man. I don’t know yet. Any ideas? 😉

While embracing the spirit of giving, I want to also learn how to give meaningful gifts. I’m working on it, and I’m open to suggestions!

6 thoughts on “Moving Toward Minimalism in Holidays

  1. For your son, find something that he is passionate about when he gets older. Kids are still kids and will still want birthday parties etc., but as they get older they start to accumulate to much stuff as well. My 10 and 11 year olds typically have a VERY hard time coming up with a wish list for birthday and Christmas because they have most every possession they could want.

    My kids are are HUGE animal lovers. In fact Launa is still holding onto wanting be a veterinarian. Alyssa would give up every possession she had to spend time with horses. I recently saw on Collin County Animal services where a 9 yr old boy had a typical birthday party at home with friends and family but instead of asking for presents he asked for dog food, cat food, animal toys, money, etc and the he was able to take all those items to the shelter and donate them. He also was pictured with the animals and got recognition. I have proposed something like this to my children and it really intrigued them.

    So just as your birthday was the best ever because it was something you were passionate about, your son will become passionate about things by the time your scrapbook may be somewhat “uncool” to him and I am positive you will be able to find something similar for him 😉

    Long winded response, sorry. But I have been struggling with the same stuff for years and think your article hits some great points!

    (ignore any gramical errors 😉

  2. Love this!

    Again. My parents. 🙂 How many times did I open gifts that were nothing but clothes? Even underwear! My parents love to give useful gifts. Every now and then, we received a toy, but those usually came from friends, extended family, or our own earned money. Because of their example, it’s easy for me to think of useful gifts first.

    For Christmas, our kids receive a new outfit, an interactive toy (rollerblades and a bike last year), books, and a movie. That’s it. We made that our family tradition to hold ourselves accountable. We also have the kids give a gift to our World Vision child. Then, we choose toys and clothes to donate, because when new stuff enters the house, older stuff must find a new home.

    I’m usually the parent whose kid gives socks or a book or a shirt at a birthday party. Art supplies are always great kid gifts, too. Kids always need more paper to draw on! We also like to get puzzles at Dollar Tree. They have foam ones for babies, 24 and 50-piece ones for pre-school and 100+-piece ones for elementary. Great developmental fun! I also scour the dollar spot at Target for animal flash cards. Kids love those. Speaking of animals, for Christmas this year, I’m making the kids our own animal book of all the animals we’ve seen that I’ve taken pictures of. I also make handmade notecards using pictures I’ve taken and give those to the folks in my life who still like to send mail. My mom says I should open an etsy shop and sell them. We’ll see!

    Wow…I rambled. 😉

  3. When the kids are older I added vacations to the holidays/birthdays. For Paige’s big 13 we went to California or for Christmas we’ve done Santa Claus, IN or Colorado.Then I just give them spending money and take lots of pics. If you hold a party at Chuck E Cheese, Jake’s place, skating rink,swimming pool parties, mall scavenger hunt, etc just the price of the party and some spending cash is all they need. Let the rest of the family & friends buy the toys and clothes. But there is always one gift from Santa 🙂

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