I’d been meaning to visit ever since she’d called early last fall with the news. A neighbor’s pear tree was ripe with unpicked fruit. Since she could no longer drive, did I want to pick the pears? If so, she’d give me directions. Also, she’d soon be moving from our former city of Bath to an assisted living facility in Manhattan. My heart sank. I knew she was in her early 80s, but I’d never once thought of her as elderly.
The perfect gift. For those who love Christmas, isn’t that what we hope to give? Something that communicates the depth of our love to the one who will receive it. A physical, tangible way of expressing the value of those we cherish. Finding such a gift is a challenge. The better we know the recipient – their hopes and needs and desires – the easier it is. Driving down our country road last week to visit his great-grandmother, I asked my 4-year-old son, “What do you think Grammy would like for Christmas?”
I get giddy at the sight of twinkling holiday lights. Candles softly glowing in windows warm my heart. And Christmas music makes me want to sing along. But there is a part of the upcoming holiday I dread: the push, push, push to spend, spend, spend. As if peace and goodwill could be purchased with a credit card. To offset the commercial takeover of Christmas – and the dreaded credit-card debt that often goes with it – here are 5 tips (in no particular order) to help curb overspending.
As a college student studying in Jerusalem, I was privileged to spend one rainy and cold Christmas wandering around Bethlehem with my mother. In the days before a concrete wall divided Israel from the West Bank, this majority Muslim city about six miles south of Jerusalem was an easy fifteen minute taxi or sherut ride from our school. Arab shopkeepers, with their open-sided kiosks lining the streets, sold strings of Christmas lights along with olivewood nativities and traditional sweets. With a flock of other worshipers, we knelt on the stone floor near the shrouded hollow in the Church of the Nativity where Christ is traditionally believed to have been born.
We decorated for Christmas last week on the first anniversary of buying our home. At this time last year, we were packing boxes in one house and frantically hammering down floors and painting walls in another. Rarely are the holidays Hallmark perfect. Congested stores, empty wallets, strained relationships, difficult family situations and unmet expectations have a way of crowding out the joy. That is why it is so important, during this third week of Advent, to take time to contemplate.