Practicing Parents

Christmas Shopping

~by Joanna Harader

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Every year I’m conflicted about Christmas gifts. On the one hand, I want to honor the spirit of Christmas and avoid being part of the crass commercialism. On the other hand, I really love Christmas shopping. (Which is saying something, because in general I’m not a shopper.)

We are fortunate that there is nothing that my children (or nieces or nephews) need, but I see so many things that they might possibly want. I imagine them opening the gift, their eyes sparkling with the delightful magic of the season. And even though I am concerned about turning this sacred celebration of a radical messiah into a crass materialistic display of consumption, I’m very pro delightful magic. And, in true Mennonite fashion, I also appreciate a good sale—of which there are many this time of year.

So I admit, the shopping can get out of hand. As you can see we already have too many presents under the tree. (Which the cat enjoys playing with and, on a side note, my friend and I decided that the whole “bring a live tree into the house, hang stuff on it, and put a bunch of ribbon-laden wrapped packages underneath” is a tradition we have been tricked into by the mind-melding powers of house cats through the ages.)

Yes, I am buying more than I need to buy. BUT, I am not buying everything I could buy. I put the kinetic sand back on the shelf. I stopped at one box of candy per stocking. And as for the life-size Sheldon Cooper cardboard figure–I did not buy that for my husband.*

Are you impressed with my anti-consumeristic, non-materialistic Mennonite superpowers of gift-buying resistance? I didn’t think so. But still, I can share a few tips that might help keep the Christmas shopping under control:

Tip #1: Consider what comes after sparkly-eyed delight. Sure, your child might love the idea of sewing and get super excited when she opens the sewing machine and  soft mint-green fabric for her robe. But a year later that (ridiculously expensive) fabric will be wadded up in a plastic bag in your basement. (As a theoretical example.)

I am thinking about what comes after a lot as I shop for my son this year. He lives on his own now, and I know that any junk food we give him for Christmas will all be eaten within 24 hours. Sure, he’d love a 5-pound Hershey bar—he’d be all sparkly-eyed delight, or at least as sparkly-eyed as 18-year-old guys get–but he would not love how he felt after eating 5 pounds of chocolate in one sitting.

And that “some assembly required” toy? Just think about the long term ramifications of your purchases. That’s all I’m saying.

Tip #2: Shop with my mom.** Her child-like enthusiasm for purchasing even the most inappropriate and ridiculous items will put the whole Christmas shopping endeavor into perspective.

My nephews love Star Wars–and perhaps you have noticed that the Star Wars Fairy has thrown up all over every store in the United States. As we shop, my mother picks up nearly every little chunk of Star Wars vomit: “Oh, look! Your nephews like Star Wars!”

“Sure they do, Mom. But do they really need a Darth Vader shower head?”***

I see how ridiculous my mom is, wanting to buy every little Star Wars thing; and then when I pick up the Yoda waffle maker I realize how silly I am being. (I can’t make any guarantees about whether I will realize my silliness before or after I buy the waffle maker. Because, come on, Yoda waffles!****)

Tip #3: Make gifts. When you make gifts, you can spend quality time thinking about your loved ones as you carefully craft a thoughtful item that you know they will love. Then remind yourself how much you really. do. Love. Them. As you bandage the finger you stabbed with a needle. And then remind yourself how much they really will still love you anyway when they open the gift you made that looked so much better on Pinterest.*****

But that’s OK. Because it’s the thought that counts. Except your kids do want real presents too. So making stuff is fine, but it doesn’t mean you get out of shopping.

Merry gift-giving, everyone. In your Christmas preparations, may you find that happy place where delightful magic meets shopping sanity. And, of course, may you find ways to honor our radical messiah in the midst of it all.

*Sorry, honey.

**I can’t guarantee my mom would be willing to shop with you, but probably. She loves meeting new people.

***Sorry, boys. Your mean dad said no Darth Vader shower head. Something about it being the bathroom guests use and maybe some guest don’t want to bathe in evil Galactic Empire spittle.

****Just kidding, Matt and Jenn. Don’t worry. Really.

*****Except for the thing I made my husband which is totally awesome but I can’t tell you what it is because he might accidentally read this before Christmas.

–This article is adapted from one of Joanna’s humor columns on Huffington Post. (


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