Sunday, December 7, 2008

New Thing #331--Give Presence

I received an e-mail that said:
Take a few minutes and check out this site--Advent Conspiracy. It could change your holidays!
Today I joined the Advent Conspiracy [AC] to do my part to de-commercialize Christmas.

Advent Conspiracy has four simple concepts. Worship Fully. Spend Less. Give More. Love All. According to their Website, it started in 2006 as a collaboration of four churches (one of which is in Chesterfield, MO) that decided to try to bring back the true meaning of Christmas. The point is to spend less on Christmas to be able to give to others relationally and to the poor.

I don't get carried away at Christmas, but it's still a shock when the charge card bill comes in January. There are several people I exchange gifts with because I feel obligated to. Advent Conspiracy suggests buying ONE LESS GIFT this Christmas and reallocating that money to those who need help.

Another one of their ideas is to give the gift of time instead of tangible presents. A friend sent me this list that really sums this idea up:
10 Free Holiday Gifts
by Melissa Mayntz

Add more value to your holiday than any price tag can measure

Holiday gifts may be one of the last things to purchase on a strict budget, but they are often the first things that recipients notice missing, even without ill will. Gift givers whose budgets are stretched this year, however, do not have to play Scrooge with gift lists. These ten gifts are completely free to give and will make a lasting impression both on the giver and the recipient.

1. Companionship

Visiting an old friend or spending a chilly winter afternoon with someone who is unable to get out is a great gift to warm the hearts of both parties. A simple conversation, board game, shared meal, or watching a movie is a great way to spend the time together enjoying the holiday spirit.

2. A Letter

The "happy family update letter" is a popular feature for many holiday cards, but nothing beats a hand-written, personal letter. Longer than a quick note or signed greeting card, a special letter can be reread and enjoyed throughout the holiday season.

3. Coupons

It is easy to draw or print simple personal coupons to give as stocking stuffers or meaningful gifts. A free kiss coupon is perfect for couples, while kids will appreciate a "get out of trouble free" coupon or a "dinner pick" certificate to choose a favorite home cooked meal.

4. Services

Free labor is a great gift to share to help ease that special someone's holiday burden. Offer to shovel snow for a week, baby-sit during another holiday, or share special skills the recipient can use, such as professional advice or tips that are free to give but will be invaluable for them.

5. Quitting a Habit

Making a concerted effort to quit a bothersome habit like biting fingernails, interrupting, etc. is a thoughtful way to show someone that you've been listening to their requests for you to stop throughout the year. Stronger habits such as smoking and gambling may be more difficult to quit, but doing so is an even more meaningful gift.

6. No Arguing

The perfect gift kids can give their parents is a day free from petty arguments and fights. The same concept applies to tense family situations or any social occasion when not everyone may get along, but time free from that tension is a great gift to offer.

7. Pampering

Pampering someone special doesn't have to cost a mint. Offer a neck or foot massage, draw a warm bubble bath, or otherwise treat them like they deserve all of this and more for a thoughtful gift that will be thoroughly enjoyed.

8. Time Alone

Parents especially will appreciate the gift of time alone. Offer to take care of the kids, answer the phone, and deal with any emergencies that crop up in order to give the recipient time to enjoy whatever they want or to catch up with their own to-do list.

9. Day of Chores

A day of chores can be a useful and productive gift. Whether it includes daily tasks such as cooking a meal and cleaning the kitchen or too long delayed chores such as cleaning out the garage or attic, offering a 24-hour period of complaint-free servitude is sure to be appreciated.

10. Forgiveness

The holidays often bring family and personal problems into the spotlight when fights break out or estrangements become apparent. Make this holiday season extra special with the gift of forgiveness, and move past disagreements to welcome the new year with a new attitude toward one another.
There will still be presents under our tree this year, but I'll also be trying to rethink what I want Christmas to be about.


  1. I am all about the decommercializing of Christmas. I have stopped buying gifts for anyone that is not in my immediate family -- parents, and siblings (and with the siblings we do a secret Santa so we only buy for two people instead of all -- and I only do one gift - for my parents, sometimes that is a service rather than an actual gift). I also donate money instead of buying gifts. That could be to organizations, to individuals, to the students at school, whoever, as long as I feel I am helping someone.

    Kind of like the secret Santa that was here in St.Louis on Friday giving out money -- did you hear about that? I wrote about it on my blog if you need to see some links.

  2. I read about the Secret Santa in the POST--they had an article before it happened, and then another afterwards. Fascinating. I wish I had that kind of money to give away!

    We're actually doing a White Elephant gift exchange among my SIL,nieces, and nephews. The gift is to cost no more than $5. Since we range in age from 13 to 50, there should be a wide range of things.

  3. Our church is involved in the Advent Conspiracy. If you check out the website, click on the center of California and you will find our church, First Baptist. We are building a health clinic in Nigeria and working to help bring clean water to villages there.

    We have never spent lavishly on Christmas for ourselves but rather on others in our community. i am a big believer in giving it all away.

  4. I love this Kathy! I was just thinking it was time for me to give back this Christmas. My new things have been pretty cool, but doing them makes me realise how lucky I am to have the health and financial means to travel and try cool activities.

    And it makes me motivated to give some joy to those who aren't so fortunate. My next new thing will definitely be a giving one - I have some great christmasy ideas :) And the ideas in this post have been inspiring too. I especially like the companionship gift - there are a few elderly family friends and neighbours who I know would love a christmas visit! The coupons are cute too.

  5. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



  6. This is the first christmas I will have looked forward to for 6 years, all the previous ones have been surviving christmas's and ones I would rather forget.. I agree with you on the commercialisation of christmas and love the idea of your 10 christmas gifts..even if people did one or two it might make a difference.

  7. I like that it's called the Advent Conspiracy! Although I am not religious, Christmas is something that you still have to do. I've loathed it for many years as it makes me feel depressed and superficial. I've tried to buy less gifts, give homemade gifts, give service/money to charities...but in my life it's like I'm the only one doing it so it doesn't work! And makes me into a bit of a jerk because I don't like to spend the money.

    This year, we are having Christmas with my partner's family in Europe - where his mother has declared "no gifts unless handmade" - however, this rule does not apply to his youngest brother [who will be 6 on the 21st of December] - everyone is encouraged to spend, spend, spend on him so he can impress his friends. It's frustrating!

  8. I came across this site a while back, too. What a fantastic idea!