With the holiday season upon us, we find ourselves in the throws of Christmas and Hanukah gift shopping. I'd be lying if I didn't admit it is one of my very favourite times of the year.
When we first began celebrating our holidays with a child, suddenly we're thrust into the coveted role of "tradition creators". Many of us adopt magic making rituals from when we were children and marry them with new ideas of our own.
One of the things that I grapple with is the commercialism of the holidays and all the excess. I want to add a new dimension for my son and find ways to make it meaningful. Most often people are able to do this through their own religious traditions. But for many of us, that isn't an option. Yet, it is still so very possible to keep the spirit of giving and goodwill at the centre of the season.
I love giving gifts. But I don't want this time of year to be just about acquiring stuff. One thoughtful alternative to commercial gifts is to make a donation to your favourite charity in the name of a loved one. Instead of receiving yet another gift basket or scarf, they'll know that they are doing good. Or if you want to put the charity choosing in their hands, then you can even give someone a gift card from CanadaHelps.org. Then they can go online and choose from thousands of Canadian charities to direct their donation to. It's like double dipping (the good kind) in the giving department and spreading the love around. (And for my family and friends reading ... this kind of gift would be on the top of my own wish list. hint. hint.)
Understandably, this kind of gift isn't for everyone on your list. If you are looking for a more tangible way to include causes in your holiday giving, there are still endless options. Some of my personal fav holiday gift ideas come from charities. Last season we "adopted" a polar bear for my son and this year his unwrapping will include saving an Orca. We are buying school supplies in Africa on behalf of his teacher instead of the standard issue “World’s Best Teacher” mug. There are so many cool ways to donate in someone's name. You can buy a goat for a family in a developing country or adopt an owl or purchase any number of interesting presents whose proceeds go to help charity. Some fabulous and meaningful holiday giving programs can be found at any of the following (to name just a few):
World Wildlife Fund
Foster Parents Plan
Free the Children
Sick Kids Hospital
Or you can check out dozens more here:
Charity Village Market Place Listings
If you haven't already picked up your holiday cards, some great ones can be found at many of the above. Last year we sent one from the Breast Cancer Foundation and the year before from the World Wildlife Fund. This year we are helping children around the world with one of Unicef's trendy designs. It makes those hours of writing the same greeting over and over feel more meaningful as we are helping raise awareness for an issue and contributing a little at the same time. And they are super easy to order online so you don't even have to brave the manic frenzy in the malls.
Aside from giving gifts to those we know and love that have the added benefit of also helping a deserving cause, what about gifts directly to people we don't know? Here is one powerfully written suggestion that I could not say any better - and that I enthusiastically second.
We are excited about another tradition of participating in one of the many local toy drives. My five year old will be the one to choose a toy for a child in need. It is fun to do and a stellar opportunity for him to actively participate in our charitable giving in a way he can relate to and understand the most. You can donate unwrapped toys to the Chum City Christmas Wish until December 22nd at any Royal Bank, Chum at 1331 Yonge or the Much Store at 777 Queen St w. Or you could give to the Mix FM Holiday Toy Drive, which runs until Dec 16 at Real Canadian Superstores. The Sick Kids Hospital main information desk is accepting toys for children until December 20th. And the hunky Toronto Fire Fighters have a Toy Drive until December 24th at all 81 Toronto Fire stations.
We also plan to bring some bags of good eats to the food drive for Daily Bread Food bank at fire halls, Real Canadian Superstores or any of their ongoing drop off locations. I always sit staring at the excess of leftovers that remain after our holiday feast and wish there were a way I could share more. I want my son to understand that and be a part of sharing and giving and not just getting and consuming.
So go forth and shop my friends. Shop for a cause. Shop for a thoughtful alternative to commercial holiday giving. Shop for kids and families who need it more than your own. Consider thinking of those not on your normal shopping list as a part of your annual family traditions.
For it is true that this season is most certainly a time "when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices" ~Charles Dickens (A Christmas Carol).
When she is not raising her 5-year-old-boy-genius, Sandra is an ex-advertising exec who spends her days working with a grassroots feminist charity. She is also an aspiring writer, chocolate-loving vegetarian … and a blogger.
Wednesday, December 06, 2006