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Friday, December 21, 2007

Christmas Spirit

This is a less tongue-in-cheek (but only slightly) update to a previous post about the excess of Christmas. I wanted to shoot down some assumptions we make about our culture and the way people celebrate Christmas.

There are plenty of fascinating facts here, but I'm particularly fascinated by these:

87% - Americans who believe holidays should be more about family and caring for others, not giving and receiving gifts.
79% - Do not believe it’s necessary to spend a lot of money in order to have a fulfilling and enjoyable holiday.
$457.4 billion - Expected holiday sales in 2006.
$435.6 billion - Holiday sales in 2005.
$15.8 billion - Amount spent on new holiday decorations in 2005.
87% - People who donated money to a charity in 2005 (religious or nonreligious).
62% - People who donated their time to a charity in 2005 (religious or nonreligious).
50% - Yearly charitable donations made between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.
$260 billion - Total charitable donations in 2005

According to those stats, Americans probably give a little more than 1/4 as much to charity as they do to retailers everywhere. That may sound materialistic, but when you consider that HALF of charitable giving comes between Thanksgiving and New Years, you can say with confidence that nonmaterialistic giving spikes over the holidays. America, as a culture, becomes less greedy and materialistic at Christmas. Tax-motivated as it may be, the giving speaks for itself. Yes, America consumes more at Christmas. But we give more, too!

I know a lot of people feel they need to make a choice between giving lots of presents, giving nothing at all, or giving to charities instead. The nothing at all people can be set aside for this discussion. I mean, we can divide them into two categories: people who don't celebrate Christmas, and people who are cheap as dirt. If you don't celebrate Christmas, that's fine. No law saying you have to. That's another discussion. And if you're just plain stingy, you probably have a very holy-esque reason for being like that. Regardless, if you don't believe in giving, than this discussion is moo.

But if you do believe in celebrating Christmas with giving of one form or another, it doesn't have to be either one form or the other. Don't assume you have to choose between charity and personal gifts. In fact, I've got serious questions about that practice. I'm not ready to have the "Listen, Son, this Christmas I'm going to give to the needy instead of to you" discussion. Nor would I want to say, "Sorry, hungry kids, my son wants a Wii." It's good to give gifts to your children, your friends, and your family. It's good to give to charity. It's good to do both without clinging to your cash (or deepening your debt).

I guess my point(s) is (are) . . . don't judge people based on the number of gifts under their trees. Be more concerned with your own motives for giving or not giving. Teach your kids to give generously by giving generously to them and by giving them the opportunity to give as well.

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