When I happily tell people I have 20 grandchildren, their response is often: “I bet Christmas is expensive. How do you afford it?” Then they give a list of suggestions I should, even must, follow
to make my Christmas “affordable”.
They give such sensible moneysaving ideas, from setting price limits to cutting out presents completely. I resent their attitude more than their ideas, so I tell them my father’s story of a robber who held up a man demanding: “Your money or your life.” The man replied: “Take my life; I’m saving my money for my old age.”
Of course there have to be limits, but I try to make shopping within my price range into a fun challenge to find something each child might like.
Presents from grandparents don’t have to be long-lasting, expensive or educational. Just fun.
Give a Whoopee Cushion to a seven year- old boy and you’ll see what I mean. (The $3, multi-coloured, multi-twirling windmills I planted in the lawn last week to frighten away the birds from the new grass seed proved too big a temptation for someone. I had forgotten just how much little people love these bright, happy toys.)
As for skipping presents completely, that would mean I would miss out more than the children.
There are other ideas — handcraft gifts can become treasures. Why not give lessons in knitting or sewing as a present? Make sweets or biscuits, but where possible, do it with the grandchildren and let them do the decorations.
Then it becomes a combined present for their family.
Let’s not ask: Can I afford Christmas? Imagine asking God the same question. God decided to afford Christmas. So we can’t afford to miss it.
There are so many opportunities to celebrate this coming Christmas, even if the money is tight and the presents are few. Use what is available.
Encourage those people who light up their houses for the enjoyment of neighbours and visiting children. A tour of these Christmas-decorated houses is a great evening out.
A Carols by Candlelight service in a church or the local park with ice-cream afterwards is a great grandparent and grandchild night.
Even a visit to the mall for the weekly groceries becomes a special outingwhen you take little ones to enjoy the decorations and listen to the carols being played.
As you get older you are unlikely to remember what presents you received for Christmas when you were eight or eleven. But I bet you can still remember the first time you were allowed to go to Midnight Mass. Off to bed early, being woken when it was dark, going sleepy to church and coming out to a
starlit sky.
For grandparents, welcoming Christmas is an opportunity to give a balance to the commercialism of the season, by providing the why, the reason for it all.
We can make sure the grandchildren experience the mystery by our gift giving — Nativity scene Advent calendars, a crib as a family present, angel decorations instead of reindeers, a star for the top of the tree, cards showing the stable, not Santa’s sleigh. Enjoy the season and sharing the story.