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Dear Annie… Creative Christmas

Dear Annie: It seems as if many people are looking for an alternative to buying things for people for Christmas out of habit.

So, here is a creative solution we use to both keep a festive spirit and give to charities. This is a great alternative to buying for adults who honestly don’t need one more thing! In my family, we each draw a name for the holidays and select a toy or special gift and an outfit the person would have loved as a child (or teenager).

We are careful to wrap the gifts in bags or loose wrappings, so as not to damage the original packaging, leaving them presentable to donate. After everyone opens their presents, we collect everything and donate to organizations that distribute toys and clothing to families in need.

It is such fun to select items that represent an interest, hobby or personality trait of that person. We open gifts, laugh and celebrate one another.

Often we will buy extra necessities like jackets, underwear and socks to add to our donation bags.

We have been doing this for several years now, and everyone looks forward to picking out gifts and also knowing that someone in need will enjoy them at Christmas.

— Jane, in Alabama

Dear Jane: I love this — not just for the charitable aspect but because it encourages everyone to tap into their inner child, which is a beautiful way to celebrate Christmas. Thanks so much for sharing your family’s tradition. Here’s another holiday gifting idea that a reader shared with me this week.

Dear Annie: Every year around Christmas, I think of telling you what I do to solve a Christmas problem that so many of your readers seem to have. I have been blessed with 13 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. Sending each of them only a $10 gift — which would be lost, broken or forgotten in just a few months — seems futile, and, frankly, very expensive for me (a limited-income senior).

About 10 years ago, I started having the children look at catalogs of organizations that send money to get animals, medicines, clean water, school supplies and so much more to some very poor countries. At first, sponsoring the farm animals (goats, chickens, bunnies, bees, sheep, ducks, etc.) appealed most to them. And as time went by, they’ve picked other things, such as supplying a clinic or a school. I always leave it up to different children to choose. Then all that’s left is for me to decide how much I can afford, pick up the phone and charge it to my credit card.

The kids seem to like this and look forward to it every year. I’m proud of them for sharing their Christmas with those less fortunate. Their parents like the idea of them sharing their Christmas, too. Plus: No shopping, no wrapping, no mailing and I never have to leave the house!

— Happy Grandma in Indiana

Dear Happy Grandma: Thank you for gifting us with the tip. Organizations such as Heifer International and World Vision offer donations via the sorts of catalogs you describe.

Dear Annie: Your response to “Feeling Stupid” about how to get over her sister-in-law’s bizarre and cruel remark hit the mark. I was in a very similar situation with my mother-in-law. I was dumbfounded and hurt as well, but years later I realized that her remark was a result of the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

— Been There

Dear Been There: Thank you for lending some more insight into how out-of-the-blue, out-of-character behavior can signal serious underlying medical problems. I’m sorry that proved true for your mother-in-law.

“Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now! Annie Lane’s debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family — is available as a paperback and e-book. Send your questions for Annie Lane to dearannie@creators.com.

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