Saturday, December 20, 2008

St. Nicholas Day present

I’m thankful that the Ukrainian tradition is to exchange gifts on St. Nicholas Day, and to celebrate the birth of Christ on a different day. Gift-giving is not a part of our family’s Christmas ritual; it’s what we do to celebrate the life of Saint Nicholas, who used his inherited wealth to give to the needy. Christmas celebrations are never “polluted” with what has become the center point of the holiday for most people: not the birth of Jesus, our Savior, but the orgy of tearing open all those piles of presents...

While most of the country is preoccupied with buying better and more expensive presents for junior, we have decided to cut back. I have been pained to witness people who have all they need continue to give, give, give – to their spouses, to their kids. Our media has brainwashed us, suggesting that we’re not good parents if we aren’t burying our kids with gifts, indulging them with games and things that they don’t need and may rarely use. But it’s our moral obligation to give to the kids or they’ll think that we don’t love them.

Is it really??

I think that it’s my moral obligation to teach the children to be good Christians and good world citizens, and to think of others, not just of themselves. Painful as it is not to indulge my kids with gifts, my husband and I chose to curb back on consumption and give only token presents, things that they need or will use. Our kids know that we love them; they also know why they aren’t getting the latest electronic gadgets for presents.

St. Nicholas Day has already come and gone, and our family gift exchange is already in the past. I’ll share with you what I gave each of the three kids as their main gift. Each received a letter, a check for $500, and a catalog. The letter said:

St. Nicholas is said to have come from a wealthy family, but he used his wealth not for himself, but gave it away to the poor. Thus, St. Nicholas Day should be commemorated not by gift-giving to those who already have all they need, but by acts of charity – giving to the poor. So this year, my gift to you is for you to select $500 of items for the needy from this catalog, and send in the enclosed check and your selections to help those who do not have nearly as much as you do.

The catalog was not to a clothing company or electronics store, but to Partners International and ANM.

Larissa chose a well in Kenya for her gift.

Jacob bought education for three kids in Sudan, fed four poor families, provided therapy for two disabled children, and bought some Bibles.

Alexandra is still mulling over the catalog, reading all the selections. Then she’ll choose her gift. I’m sure it will be a good one.

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What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.”
— Albert Pike, Scottish Rite Freemason (1809-1891)