A whole year has passed since my family and I went to Eritrea for the holidays and created a new family tradition called Operation Give Not Receive. The idea behind this tradition was to teach the children about the power of selflessness; the act of thinking of others before yourself. What better way to do that than to share the joy of gift giving with little kids during the holiday season?!
At the time, the kids were 10, 6, and 1 and Bini and I had sat them down and explained that Santa was skipping our household, so instead of us receiving gifts, we were going help Santa give out presents to children in remote areas of Eritrea. They were NOT HAPPY to say the least which only convinced us more that this tradition had to be done.
I had no expectations for how the day would turn out or how my children would react to giving gifts on Christmas when they knew they weren’t going to get any. Their attitudes changed the minute we met the Daughters of Charity nuns and learned about orphans they were raising in a village called Hebo. I shared our experience in detail on the blog last January and since then, not a day has gone by where we haven’t thought about the children we met.
Now a year later, Lorenzo asked if Santa was going to come to our house (I mean how he can skip us when we are home for the holiday’s right). I could see the hurt in his face, as I told him that we were Santa’s helpers and shouldn’t expect anything in return. Bella on the other hand was more than understanding and willing to do help. A part of me thinks I’m being too harsh on them, I mean they are children after all, but then I think about what I am helping them understand- the real reason for this holiday.
Christmas- a time of love and family gathering, a holiday that teaches us about the birth of our savior and why God sent him for us. It’s a time of giving and spreading joy throughout the world.We all have our own special traditions but the one thing we often tend to make it all about is gift giving. The malls/stores are packed, everyone is always racing to get their loved ones that special gift and the kids write out their wishes to Santa. Over the years, I found myself going overboard with the whole thing. Our tree would be filled with presents and the kids would play with their toys for weeks, maybe a couple of months before tossing it and going to the next BIG THING.
I was stressed and Christmas somehow lost it’s meaning for me. Last year with this new tradition, Bini and I finally decided to return Christmas to its natural state; to help others in need during the holiday instead of own children who have everything.
We took our lessons learned from last year and decided to send essentials more than toys, write handwritten notes for the kids and supply them with ample amounts of love from afar. Sadly, we won’t be able to go to Eritrea to see the children but will be sending their gifts with a special angel- my little sister. We included our family and friends into our new tradition and slowly our little giving project has become a community effort with people from far and near helping out.
I started this tradition in hopes that my children would learn to give instead of always receiving but they are walking away with so much more than just that. They are learning the true value of love and compassion. What community service means and how important it is to help those in need. The best part is, we are doing this as a family and creating memories together through the process.
I hope reading our experience adds some Christmas joy into your heart! As always,I’d love to hear from you. What are your holiday traditions? Feel free to leave your comments below.