According to Business Insider, Christmas is the biggest commercial holiday celebrated in the U.S.
In 2011, consumers spent just over $700 in gifts alone. $400 of that was spent on gifts for children.
We spent another $2.6 billion in paper to wrap all that crap up. Paper that would be promptly torn, crumpled, shoved into black plastic bags and kicked to the curb.
$2.6 billion dollars sitting in our garbage cans, people.
$2.6 billion dollars would also provide the means to dig clean water wells in over 433,000 villages around the world, literally saving millions of lives.
$2.6 billion dollars would lift over 866,000 girls and women in East Asia out of sexual slavery. $2.6 billion would support these women from rescue, to aftercare and rehabilitation, all the way to establishing her feet on the ground independently.
$2.6 billion invested in the right places would literally change the world.
Or, it can wrap up things we don’t need, only to be ripped off, discarded and shipped off to a landfill.
Happy birthday Jesus.
(Credit: Diane Cordell via Creative Commons)
Rethink: Give Experience
Last year Ben and I did not give gifts. We threw a big party and invited everyone we knew to come and eat and spend time with us. It was amazing! It took a lot of effort and planning, but we were able to spend time with so many people we love. We decided the party was our gift to ourselves and to our loved ones, because we value relationships. And what better thing to give to someone you value than your time.
$400 of each Christmas shopper’s budget goes to gifts for children.
But as adults, do we remember more about the toys we owned or the time our parents and loved ones spent with us?
As we launch into the season of more! more! more! and gimme! gimme! gimme! let us pause to think about
1) what we are really giving
2) why we are giving in the first place.
Instead of spending 5 hours shopping, fighting lines, searching for the right size and color and batteries to fit
You spent 5 hours exploring a museum or zoo or taking a day trip to explore a new place with your family or friends.
Instead of racking up debt you’ll be paying off for the next six months
You blocked out 2 hours each week to cook and eat dinner with friends and neighbors for the next six months.
Instead of mailing each other boxes of things we don’t need and skyping to wish each other well
We hopped on a plane or in a car and actually saw each other instead.
What if instead of giving presents, we gave presence?
What if we gave experience instead of excess?
What if instead of another toy, sweater, game, trinket or gadget you…
– Invested in a season pass to a local museum or zoo, and then blocked off time to use it for the next year. (Schedule these times now. Mark the dates in your phone or planner.)
– Purchased season tickets for the theater, ballet, or a sports team.
– Threw a party! People don’t need another trinket or favor, they need your time and attention. Eat together, talk together, listen, laugh.
– Went to visit a family member or friend whom you haven’t seen for awhile.
– Took a trip to that place you’ve always wanted to go to.
– Took a vacation. A real one. Away from phones and emails and screens. Unplug for a day, or a week. You don’t even have to go away to do this, just stop and focus on the people physically present with you.
And then, what if, as we are together giving the type of presence that needs no wrapping, we spent that $2.6 billion on something other than filling our city dumps?
What if we threw a party and built a well with the money we saved?
What if we unplugged and spent time with loved ones and freed a girl from sex slavery with the money we saved?
What if? What if? What if?
$2.6 billion is a lot of money.
What would you do with it?
This year, consider giving presence in place of presents. Give the money you save on gifts and wrapping to do something great in the world.
Advent Conspiracy has been helping people do just that for the last five years and their website is full of ideas on how you can make this Christmas one to remember for all the right reasons.
Check back later this week for part three of this guide which will cover charities you need to know about and things to consider when choosing to financially partner with an organization.