I’m not sure if I’ve written about this before or not… (I’ll go read my old blog posts later and find out…) But in any case, a couple recent blog posts (like Cait’s list of traditions) and emails (like one from J$ at Rockstar Finance promoting their Community Fund) have got me thinking about it (plus the fact that this year’s event just happened this past weekend), and so I thought I would share my Christmas giving tradition.
It all started when I was 9 years old. My mum always had this annual tradition of hosting a “Sherry and Shortbread” party for all of her friends and acquaintances. The idea was that she would host an open-house-style-party, and provide all sorts of drinks and goodies, and she asked her friends to bring used clothing and toys to donate to the local women’s transition house (a shelter for women and children who needed temporary housing while they transitioned out of a bad situation). The stack of donations would fill up the entire front hall and stairwell to the second level of our house. It was amazing! (She has since stopped doing this annual party, but I guess my tradition has sort of taken its place…)
At around this time, I had a club with a few of my friends that we called “the Fun Club”. I think it was sort of our version of the Babysitters’ Club, except that we were a little too young for babysitting, so we just created a club. One afternoon after school we were hanging around at our house (our normal “meeting” place was in the attic of our garage), and somehow my mum planted a seed in our minds about doing something like her friends do, and donate some of our old clothes, toys and books to someone less fortunate than us. I’m not sure how it all happened, but eventually my mum asked a local church if they had a family that could use some extra gifts for Christmas, and they gave us a family with children about our age, which worked out perfectly. We collected things from our own collections of toys that were still nice enough to be given as a gift, along with clothes and books and food stolen from our parents’ cupboards, and put together a pretty good hamper for a bunch of kids. (I’m pretty sure our parents did a lot of helping, but it felt like it was us at the time.)
It’s a little vague in my memory now how exactly that idea was formed, but needless to say, that year, when we were 9 years old, a new tradition was formed among my friends. And we have continued it every year ever since! (Okay, I admit that there was 1 year that it didn’t happen – I was living in Sweden for a year after I graduated university, and didn’t come home for Christmas. It wasn’t exactly something that I could easily organize from that far away.)
Over the years it has definitely changed and morphed, but every year in early December I get friends asking me if I am going to do my Christmas hamper again this year. Some years we would a family of all boys that were older than us (at the time my friends were mostly girls). I think we had to get creative for gifts on that one. And some years we would get families so large (think multiple sets of multiples) that we started asking other friends to help out. And the sources for our families has changed too. Sometimes it’s a church, or a school, or a community organization. Some years I contact the same source as the year before and they pass me on to someone else because there need isn’t as great (which is always nice to hear).
As we’ve gotten older, the gifts we give have changed too. As teenagers and young adults, we didn’t have as many old toys, books and clothing for children just lying around our houses anymore, so we moved on to buying a few new toys and items. It probably helped that our incomes were higher at that age, so we didn’t have to rely on donating our own items. And while some of my friends’ parents still do contribute, we have moved away from relying on their contributions to make a big difference. I feel like we may move towards being able to pull from our own homes in the near future, once the collection of babies and young kids grows up a little bit… But maybe some of them will start their own Christmas hamper tradition.
The event that I host has changed over the years too. When we were kids, it was an afternoon of wrapping gifts and my mum would serve us some sort of lunch (probably Kraft Dinner). There were probably only 5-10 of us. Now, it is more an event similar to my mum’s old “Sherry and Shortbread” party. I create a feast of food for my friends, and they stop by when they can (holidays are always busy), help with the sorting and wrapping of the gifts, and grab a bite to eat. The total number of people that stop by is probably well over 30, maybe closer to 40 or 50 once you start counting the kids that are now around with my friends. Needless to say, the amount of donations has increased as the number of participants has increased, so we typically do at least 2 families, sometimes 3. And often we have so much extra that we can help supplement other hampers or donate some of the extras to other organizations.
It’s pretty amazing that my group of friends has done this for over 20 years. I am not sharing this to look for praise or anything. I am not a saint, nor do I do much donating to the hamper itself. I just make food and host a party for my friends, and I am always looking for an excuse to host a party. If anything, the only reason I keep this up is because my friends are all so generous and enthusiastic, they would be disappointed in me if I stopped.
But, hopefully by sharing how easy it is to get a group of people to do amazing things, I might be able to inspire someone else to start a similar giving tradition for themselves, or their kids.
Do you have any Christmas giving traditions?