Get ready. It’s coming. It’s the holiday retail frenzy, featuring events like Black Friday, and Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. Is it time to add Support Survivors Sunday to the list?
I hope so. But before I elaborate on that thought, lets consider how the Christmas season became all about the gifts in the first place. And please note, I’m including Hanukah and Kwanza gift giving in this discussion as well. Christmas just happens to be the holiday I’m most familiar with.
The practice of gift giving at Christmas appears to be linked to the gifts brought to the Christ child by the three Magi. The difference is that gold (associated with kings), frankincense (associated with worship), and myrrh (associated with preparing bodies for burial) were given to honor of the birth of Jesus. They were symbolic of his life to come. But the Magi never expected to receive gifts in return from Mary and Joseph.
As centuries passed, Christmas grew to include a gift exchange with loved ones. But the volume and expenditures were in no way commensurate with our practices today.
The Modern Version of Gifting
According to an article released by MSN, in December 2011, American parents spent an average of $271 per child, with one in 10 spending over $500 per child. Current surveys are projecting that average Americans will spend between $700 and $800 on gifts this holiday season. If you’re math challenged, let me help you. That translates into the National Retail Federation’s holiday sales prediction of $602.1 billion. That’s a whole lot of frankincense!
Our rationale behind gift giving is often as skewed as our spending. We give to impress, compete with others or keep up appearances. We give because we feel obligated, because those around us have expectations, because we don’t want to disappoint loved ones. Worst of all, giving gifts at Christmas sometimes becomes mechanical, and almost a chore.
So I ask you: how many more scarves or earrings or sweaters do you really need? What are the chances your significant others will miss that extra neck tie or golf shirt? Will your parents truly lament the lack of puzzle books and fruitcakes in their stockings?
An Even Better Version of Gifting
You know the answers to those questions. So how about we go back to the one I asked in the first paragraph: could this be the first year we celebrate Support a Survivor Sunday? As soon as I finish this article, I’m going to email my loved ones and tell them all I want for Christmas this year is a donation – of whatever size – to the Women Survivors Alliance.
The WSA is naturally my nonprofit of choice, and I hope it’s yours as well. But there are myriad others who work as tirelessly as we do to extend a hand to others in need. Join me in making your gift a gift to the one that speaks to you. Then follow me in taking this mission on the road, encouraging friends to climb on the band wagon. Let’s take it a step further and have them ask their employers about matching donations.
Of course, my grandchildren will each find a present beneath their tree from us. But they’ll also have a hand written note from me, reminding them that they must remember the most important message of the Christmas season: We don’t NEED more, we need to GIVE more.
So here are my plans for this Holiday Season. I’ll be thankful for every day and everything I have. I’ll celebrate my family and friends, both old and new (and especially including the thousands of Sister Survivors I’ve met this year). Most importantly, I’ll make very strategic plans for 2014, working to give back more than I get, and honoring my fellow humans.
After all, wasn’t that the message of the first Christmas gifts given more than 2,000 years ago?