Monday, December 8, 2008

gift guide, introduction

I used to be the director of religious education at a church. For a couple of years at that job, I published little packets of "fun, creative, useful, and sustainable gifts for everyone" to set out where people could pick them up before or after the service. I just came across a copy of the one I did in 2003, which might have been my last Christmas at that job, and I've gotta say, it was pretty dang great. So I'm going to reprise some of it here, because I think it's still just as good now as it was then, and because the issues are even more urgent now than they were five years ago.

As a side note, I know that changing conceptions of the season is really difficult to do, especially when there are kids, traditions, and in-laws to deal with. When I wrote the last issue of the guide, in 2003, I had two very little kids whose only experience of Christmas was the one I had provided, with my values and limited income clearly at the forefront. My family is basically a tribe of hippies, so there were no issues there. My ex didn't really participate in Christmas, and we had limited contact with my in-laws, so no issues there.

Fast forward five years, and I've got two elementary age kiddos, a new partner whose kids have grown up very differently from mine, and lots of people around us with a desire to give our kids gifts. We're negotiating traditions and values and finances and it seems like an emotional minefield at times. So yeah, I know it's not easy.

In a conversation with my sweetie last night, he expressed that he doesn't know how to change the way he's always done things without disappointing his kids. He knows that they will be getting plenty of gifts, both from us and from others, but it will definitely be scaled back from the mountain of presents that they've gotten in the past. So while in terms of environmental and consumer values, we agree, and we also agree that none of our kids really need anything, it's still a change, and change is uncomfortable. My contention was that this is a good year to change expectations, since everything else is changing, and we're starting new traditions. And if we give lip service to conservationism, and say that we don't want to be mindless consumers, but then go out and do it anyway, how does the cycle ever stop?

I'll keep ya posted on how it all works out at our house this year, but in the meantime, I'll go ahead and post the guide. I'm dividing it into sections for ease of reading. This is Part One, which serves as an introduction of sorts. Part Two is some thoughts about gifts and the criteria I used for the guide. Part Three is the source list and gift guide itself, divided very roughly by age group. Even if you're only shopping for an eight-year-old, read the whole thing, as you'll probably find appropriate ideas in every section. Part Four may or may not happen -- the original guide contained a bibliography/reading list. I may incorporate that throughout, or I may do it at the end, or I may skip it altogether.

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