Even though I didn't really photograph it well or completely (or even with my real camera) this is my favorite Christmas project from this year. This is something, in some form, that we'll definitely figure out how to do again.
The idea was simple. The kids and I decided that we'd give someone a gift every day in December leading up to Christmas.
Then we did.
What we did was very random and a little different for each day. We did a lot of baking: cookies of all kinds, brownies, rice crispie treats, banana bread, a few meals for families with moms who had jobs and kids and classes and surely a lot of other things going on during finals week. Some were really small gifts; others more substantial. "Instant movie nights" (a DVD and a few packages of microwave popcorn) were a favorite as were rootbeer floats. We collected a few favorite books and the kids made some stuffed toys, baby blankets, a few little tutus, and a couple of kid-sized aprons. We also gave gift certificates for the handful of local restaurants and coffee shops in town. One afternoon we went around to all our local businesses and got about $30-40 worth of gift certificates from each one. Some days or for some families we combined a few of these different things.
I tried to keep much of our spending local, but our town is so small we did buy a few books, movies, games and fabric for some of the projects in Missoula since none of that is available here.
How we chose people was random, too. Sometimes kids were excited about a specific person or an idea of something they wanted to make and planned ahead and worked on it for a few days. Other days they'd come home from school and something they saw or heard earlier in the day made them want to do something for someone who they thought could use a reminder someone was thinking about them. We did big families, young couples, grandparents of some of the kids' friends, and young single people. Some people we knew really well, some we were even related to, and some we only knew a little. Some were fairly close neighbors, some lived a few miles out of town, and we even mailed a couple anonymous packages. The only consistent piece was that we do something nice for someone else every day without expecting anything in return.
|Convincing Dad to help with the blanket knots. . . too many make your hands tired!|
I realized in the middle of the month that Azia had even started doing a little mini-giving project with her little brother. She was sitting at the table on evening and asked me, "What can I do for Lex's seventh day of Christmas?" I asked her what she meant and she explained that she made him something every day and then wrapped it so he could have a little present every day leading up to Christmas.
|Lex fabric shopping (with homemade Captian America shield in hand). He went right to the zebra print and wanted to make something for his sister.|
Around Thanksgiving we changed the plan one more time. We did buy one big gift: an American girl doll for a girl we knew wanted one and probably wouldn't otherwise be getting one this year.
The rest of the money we used on the gift certificates, so the only real direct increase in normal December expenses was a few games and books and all the meals and baking we did.
Even though we did spend a lot of money, I think we could do something nearly as cool without spending much at all. (Though, if I was going to overspend on Christmas, I'm glad this is where we did it.) It was good for my kids to give away things of monetary value. A few times they suggested maybe we could keep a certain movie because they love it and just make that person more cookies instead? Or how about we use that certificate for us for dinner because we never eat out? But as soon as we talked about how cool it was to give those things to some other people who might not have them either, they were even more excited to drop them off.
|Zoran and Israel off for some sneaky night operations across the field. Israel did much of the delivery work since he was a bit faster and not opposed to running a quarter mile or so back to the car in some cases. Teenagers sure come in handy.|
(There are a lot of us, so with either of these approaches we'd hit a few hundred people over the course of the month!)
All and all, it was a great way to spend more time with the kids really enjoying what the Christmas season should be about. Now we have eleven more months to think of what we'll do next year.