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by Robyn Lee

Everyone knows that the time leading up to Christmas is one of the most stressful times of the year. Parties and pageants get scheduled into our already hectic lives, while chocolate Advent calendars herald how many shopping days we have left. Pretty soon we begin greeting one another with "Have you finished your Christmas shopping yet?" Giving gifts in a spirit of joy and charity is so central to how we respond to Christmas, that how much we spend each December becomes a good economic indicator. But just how much are we "expected" to spend?

     Gift giving is associated with almost all holidays, and I’m not negating the pleasure derived from giving or receiving gifts. Yet I find it hard to justify the cost involved in meeting current expectations at Christmas. A cost that is both financial and spiritual. The task of finding the "perfect" gift for everyone on my list each year was stressful enough, but even worse was that I never managed to stick to my budget. Many years found me still paying off my Christmas credit card expenditures six months after the holiday. And I wasn’t the only one. A few years ago my husband and I broke with tradition by drastically cutting our Christmas shopping list. We began by crossing off the names of our "well-off" siblings and friends. Before long we couldn’t even justify buying gifts for each other either; there is really nothing that we need. Together we decided to use the money budgeted for gifts for each other to give just that much more to our favourite charity. It has become a satisfying expression of gratitude for our blessings that we love giving to each other for Christmas.


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