Why we're doing this

Many people feel that holiday gift giving has become stressful and devoid of meaning. Shopping is a chore, involving fighting traffic, crowds and sometimes even each other over who gets the limited edition Cabbage Patch doll or Playstation. In affluent countries such as the U.S., most adults have everything they need and children usually have more than enough toys. For children especially, the holiday revolves around material possessions; what they got, wanted to get, didn't get, and what their friends got. More often than not, we even end up giving away our gifts ("regifting") or returning them because they were not what we would have bought for ourselves. This is ironic when the spirit of traditional winter holidays (Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, etc) in all faiths is love, community, compassion, celebration of life, and joy. How can we put the meaning back into our gift giving and use our time and money more wisely? Alternative giving is a way of giving which benefits the giver, the givee and the recipient of the donation. Deciding which cause to give to puts our mind in the right place for the holidays and brings back a spirit of generosity.
--- Janet MacLean

I grew up in Germany, where Christmas is a tad more traditional. (We even had real candles on the tree!) My parents encouraged us to craft gifts rather than buy them. I felt awkward when someone asked me what I wanted for Christmas and didn't take "nothing" for an answer. "Come on, you gotta want something!" And as an adult, well-intended people give me gifts I don't need.

Then Janet dragged me to the Kirkland Interfaith Network Holiday Fair, and I was electrified. I had known about some alternative gift programs, but I had never seen so many of them in one place. What a range of choices! Now I have a good reply to the Christmas question: "I would like a donation made to an organization that you feel connects our souls".
--- Sebastian Helm

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