Guidelines for Alternative Giving

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Guidelines for Alternative Giving I

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Guidelines for Alternative Giving I


Giving is at the heart of Christmas! We remember God's great gift by giving to others. Given human nature and the commercialization of Christmas, "getting" sometimes seems more prominent than "giving," and giving to "our own" sometimes has more importance than giving to him whose birthday we celebrate. It doesn't have to be that way. We can give in a way that honors the birth of Christ, expresses our love to our family and friends, and our concern for the earth.

These Guidelines are designed to assist individuals, families or groups who want to be more intentional in their giving. The Guidelines are intended to be suggestive, not inclusive. In the end, it is you who must set the guidelines for your giving.

Using the Guidelines

1. Enlist the participation of the whole family for a discussion of these Guidelines. If you are single, or a single parent, try to get together some of those with whom you ordinarily exchange gifts to discuss the ideas presented here.

2. Try to have the initial discussion before the end of October. People are likely to be more receptive to new ways of giving if they have not already begun to plan for this Christmas.

3. Ask each member to prepare an expense report on last year's Christmas. Set a time when you will all report back. Encourage the children to prepare reports as well.

4. When you come back together, combine the reports for all family members on the "Alternative Christmas Cost/Analysis Form" on page four.

5. Discuss taking 25% of last year's total and spend that on a birthday present for Jesus. You may want to take time to read Matthew 25:31 46 together and discuss the meaning of "a birthday present for Jesus. " Make a covenant on what is decided.

6. Go through the Guidelines and discuss what might be appropriate birthday gifts and appropriate gifts for family and friends. Add your own guidelines to the list.

Guidelines for Giving

1. REMEMBER WHOSE BIRTHDAY IT IS! Christmas gift giving must begin with the recognition that Christmas is the day we celebrate the birth of Christ. When we celebrate a birthday we give gifts to the person whose birthday it is. Moreover, we are careful to choose what that person expressly wants and needs.

Is there any doubt about what Jesus wants us to give him? He pointedly insists that in order to gift him, we must find him in the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and the imprisoned.

Gifts of our time, skills and money to support ministries to "the least of these" are the beginning points -- not the afterthoughts  - of gift giving at Christmas. For example,

Giving your time for participation on a committee which ministers to "the least of these" (local senior citizen lunch program, prison visitation, housing board etc.);

Giving your skills to the same kind of organizations (teaching cooking, auto repair, bookkeeping, etc. in programs for disadvantaged young people; or actually cooking, repairing, bookkeeping in some particular situation;

Giving financial support to programs of your denomination that minister to "the least of these."

NOTE: Not mentioned here are participation in and support for groups like PTA, Scouts, etc. which you may do for your family. That participation and support may be your gift to some family members. They are not, however, "the least of these."

Will you plan to spend in time, skills and money at least 25% of what you spent on last year's Christmas celebration?

Warning: You probably do not have the time or money to do everything you have done before and add this on. The Christmas birthday gifts must replace some of the time and money invested before.

2. PLAN YOUR GIFT GIVING! Consider the person, your own time, skills and money and PLAN your gift. Suggestions:

3. GIVE YOURSELF! The giving of gifts is essential to the health of our society. The traditional purchase of gifts is essential only to our convenience and the store's profit. Giving a gift both affirms and strengthens a relationship. The highest form of giving is the giving of one's self:

Time: Giving an uninterrupted period of time to a child or other loved one on a regular basis. (You may be surprised by your child's reaction to this gift.) Those who are busiest may find this to be their greatest gift.

Skill: Using a skill you have, give yourself in what you create. You can also give the skill itself by teaching it to the recipient. Some ideas:

COOK traditional foods like cookies and fruitcake or a personal specialty   like bread or apple butter. Invite friends to share their family recipes;

SEW a simple pattern, then personalize it with embroidered initials or an appliqued design. Sew floor cushions, pillows, place mats or a rug to suit the recipient's taste. Sew soft toy or beanbags or puppets for a child;

FRAME a favorite picture. Illuminate, Illustrate, embroider or silkscreen a passage or poem and then frame it:

RENEW an old possession. Make new clothes for a wellloved doll, rebind a tattered book, refinish a scarred chest or chair.

BUILD shelves, a spice rack, a window box, a bird house, a gerbil cage, a sand box, a doll house, a lamp, a set of blocks, a game, hundreds of things....

PLANT spring bulbs on pebbles or in a bulb glass to bloom in the middle of the winter. Plant a terrarium in an aquarium or large jar. Plant a windowsill herb garden;

STRING necklaces of seeds, beans, nuts, shells, Indian corn, spices or baked clay beads on dental floss. (Hard materials may have to soak overnight first.)

POUR candles in milk cartons, cans, cardboard tubs, egg shells, jello molds or damp sand.

WRITE a history of your family (for family members) or a history of your friendship with a particular person. include some old photos.

4. BUY WITH CONSCIENCE! We are not opposed to the purchase of gifts. We do believe that purchasing gifts requires careful thought. Consider these questions:

Does this gift reflect the values I want to share? What does it say about me and the person receiving my gift when I give

Does this gift encourage conservation rather than consumption? Does material from which the gift is made reflect abuse of the environment, or does the use of the gift abuse the environment? Any gift requiring the use of electricity or gas should be purchased only after the most serious consideration.

Does this gift encourage passivity rather than activity; dependence rather than self reliance?

Does this gift stimulate spiritual, mental or physical growth? What are your expectations? Giving to stimulate someone else's growth can be presumptious, but between two people who care about each other, it is an act of love.

Who profits from my purchase of this gift? The purchase of hand made gifts from craft groups (like those listed in the Alternative Celebrations Catalogues) supports the preservation of traditional crafts and skills as well as the efforts of low income persons to become self reliant.

Alternative Christmas Cost/Analysis Form­

How Much Do You Spend at Christmas?

1. Gifts














Mother in law

Father in law

Brother in law

Sister in law




Sub Total




Mail Carrier

Paper carrier

Dog, Cat, etc.


Sub Total

2. Decorations


Tree Ornaments

House Decorations

Wrapping Paper

Ribbon and tape

Sub Total

3. Christmas Cards



Sub Total

4. Food

Christmas dinner


Christmas cookies, etc.

Special meals


Sub Total

5. Travel Expenses for Shopping

6. New Christmas Outfits

7. Other


Add all Sub Totals

1. Gifts



2. Decorations

3. Cards

4. Food

5. Travel Expenses

6. Clothes

7. Other

Grand Total

Take "Grand Total" and multiply by 25%.

Grand Total X 25% = _____ !!!

This is how much money we plan to divert to social causes this Christmas.

Guidelines for Giving has been prepared by ALTERNATIVES for Simple Living.

Make copies of this resource under the Creative Commons attribution, not-for-profit license.

Page updated 1 Dec. 2013

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