20 December 2010


Many years ago, my first wife and I used to join her parents on Christmas day, to exchange gifts and enjoy a holiday feast. Her father's gleeful enjoyment of the tradition was like that of a child, in a good way. Alas for him, this was a time in my life (my mid-20s) when I was questioning assumptions and traditions. Those that weren't humanitarian or earth-supporting, I set out to change. For instance, I decided one year that rather than join the frenzy of capitalistic gift buying, I would either give handmade gifts, or give cards stating that a donation had been sent to a worthy cause in the recipient's name.

You could have heard a pin drop that morning, after the rather monumental pile of gifts from under the Christmas tree had been given out, and my in-laws looked confused, realizing that they had not received anything from me. They'd overlooked the two envelopes placed among the tree boughs, each containing a donation card. Upon opening them, my father-in-law in particular was crestfallen, then offended. He wanted his material gifts. He never quite got over that, which I regret.

However, many people would welcome such a gesture. If any of your friends or loved ones are among them, consider making a donation to a charitable organization, or a conservation group which seeks to perserve and restore the creatures and habitat on our planet. The list of well-known groups is long, and probably already familiar to you. In The Gifts of Hope, Nicholas D. Kristof offers a listing of lesser-known, but equally deserving humanitarian groups. I hope you find the idea of alternative gift-giving useful, no matter what form it takes in your own creative mind, or what holiday your own tradition celebrates.

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