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A Christmas confession (12/20/2009)
By Janet Lewis Burns

“Jesus is the reason for the season!”  That poster was draped across our front door during the holidays for several years. I look back, with regrets now, seeing it as a self-righteous, judgmental act, especially since our neighborhood yards are always all decked out with eye-catching, charming, often Christian scenes, while we have none.

Though the message is right-on and so true, I fear my intentions may have hinged on a bitterness I feel against materialistic holidays. I must confess, concerning put-downs and clever advice I’ve been handing out in my December articles, I haven’t always been practical “Miss Goody Goody Gumdrops” myself. When the grandkids arrived on the scene, I fell for  the hype and allure of gift giving, even to the point of self-indulgent splurging. Worse than that, I committed the big “S!” I spoiled my own grandchildren.  

I must admit, I wallow in childish, delighted squeals and rosy-cheeked smiles, as  gift  wrap and curlicue ribbons fly across the carpet, and as they feast their eyes upon just exactly what they wanted from Grandma and Gramps! How does one undo the unspeakable?  I should have been heeding my own past advice.

Our family had agreed several years back to give gifts only to the kids, at a specified, reasonable amount. Some have trouble abiding by the rule. My frugal attempt to be a charitable example every year falls on deaf ears. I’ve suggested to our grandchildren that grandma would like to take the money I would normally spend on family gifts and donate it all to Toys For Tots and other worthy causes. That didn’t go over well.

The girls have helped me pick out toys for the give-away barrels in recent years, assured that their gifts were shoo-ins. Finally, they’re at the age to appreciate gift cards and that bit o’ green Gramps has always given them. That way the burden of guilt over what they use it for, taking into consideration that they have rooms overflowing with the latest in trendy gadgets and clothes, falls on Mom and Dad. 

If I were to write a Christmas column in my usual manner, I’d be shelling out conservative advice like, “Look through your closets and drawers before you buy, taking inventory of paper plates, napkins, gift wrap, ribbon, greeting cards, and decorations you already have, or use your imagination and be creative.”  Well, that’s a no-brainer.   

I’d go on, “Before you hit the aisles, make a list and stick to it. Better yet, create personal gift certificates to do something special for someone, like taking an elderly widow or widower out to lunch and an afternoon of sightseeing. A child would love a day of fishing or a trip to the zoo. Teens, your working mom could dig a commitment to take care of a household chore. Dad would really appreciate a gift from a live-at-home college kid to wash his pickup once a month. No strings attached!

I still have a gift my son Mike, now 41, made for me in a grade school religion class. Their teacher Alice Yackel and her husband owned an implement company here in Lewiston. She gave each student a metal corn planter plate, which they painted black and decorated with red holly berries and green leaves, gluing three metal balls underneath. I used that trivet for years!  Now, every time Pat cleans out my kitchen cabinets, that gift of old shows up. I don’t have the heart to part with it.

Christmas in these depressed and uncertain times should not be an occasion of stress and frustration. For all the world, a Savior is born!

LOVE conquers all! Give the gift of yourself.


Janet Burns resides in Lewiston. She can be reached at   patandjanburns@embarqmail.com. 


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