Everyone's got Christmas or holiday traditions. In my family, we'd all go to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, come home and have a turkey sandwich and a glass of champagne. And THEN all the kids would get to open ONE present. I'm not sure if the strategy was for my parents to allow us to blow off just enough pent-up Christmas energy so that we'd be able to sleep, or if that was THEIR tradition when they were kids. At any rate, that tradition sticks with me in a very real, tangible way. To this day, incense makes me sleepy-- like a 6 year old kid clinging to consciousness at 1 a.m.
At any rate, decades later, we still practice a form of that tradition with my kids today. But times change, people change, institutions change. And sometimes, it takes a real effort to keep the traditions alive. But I got some good advice from a dear friend and Heifer colleague, Pat Keay. "Start new family traditions," she said. So I'm trying to do that with my kids. You'd think a Heifer employee would give nothing but Heifer gifts for Christmas. Ummm... not exactly. I DO give Heifer gifts, and in my heart of hearts think "It's the perfect gift-- you never have to exchange it, it's always the right size, you know it will be used and appreciated, there's no mess or mountains of paper to throw away or recycle Christmas morning. Plus, it's WAY easy on me." But I'm human.
Now, getting kids to buy into the whole Heifer gift idea is not always easy. Some take to it like a duck to water (sorry). And some still like bright, shiny things (to give AND receive).
There's room in the world for both. Mine will never be a completely paper-free house, and even my vegetarian/pescatarian daughter likes a juicy burger now and then. So I just keep proposing these alternatives, suggest walking to the store instead of driving, give Heifer gifts to some on my list, and try to live a responsible life. As the American philosopher William James said, "Act for the best. Hope for the best. And take what comes."