I stumbled upon this great website today. It's called Redefine Christmas, and is based out of Westport, CT and it aimed at getting people to "change the way we look at giving and receiving." As a little kid Christmas was all about getting presents and asking Santa for toys and dolls and clothes. As I got older it was still fun to get presents but I began getting involved with food drives and volunteering at the food pantry to help put baskets together. I began to realize that during this season of family and giving, there were families out there who couldn't afford to give presents to their kids or make a nice meal. Christmas and the holidays should be about not only giving to your family, but giving to others as well. Redefine Christmas is working to create awareness about this simple idea that so many have forgotten and is hoping that people will give donations as gifts to charities and to the less fortunate. It's a wonderful idea and it's so nice to see a website (and Facebook and Twitter) dedicated to this cause.
It reminded me also of the Clemens' Christmas. Every year the family would exchange gifts, the girls would get letters from Santa and presents laid out in their classroom to open on Christmas morning. And an important tradition that they took part in every year was to create gift baskets for the poor in Hartford. According to Katy Leary, their housekeeper, “She [Livy] always had a crowd of people, children and old people and grown-up people, too, depending on her and she fixed them up wonderful baskets with a big turkey and cans of peas and tomatoes and vegetables and then, oh, a bottle of wine and a great big box of candy, and nuts and raisins, and then there was always some stockings and underwear and a few pretty things, too. She used to give every one of them a present, individual-like, extra. She knew, it seems to me, just what each person wanted most and she shopped for weeks before Christmas, doing up all those things and having all those baskets ready…” And then on Christmas Eve the Clemens girls would get dressed up in their winter outfits and get in the sleigh with Patrick the coachman and deliver the baskets to the needy families they were created for. Livy continued this practice well into the time when the family was having financial hardship, knowing that there were other families who were still less fortunate than they.
Let's all invoke the spirit of Livy and remember that we have the ability to help make someone else's holiday better. Make a donation is someone's name as a gift, or ask that others do it for you as your gift.
“Joy, and peace be with you and about you, and the benediction of God rest upon you this day! …There is something beautiful about all that old hollowed Christmas legend! It mellows a body – it warms the torpid kindnesses and charities into life. And so I hail my darling, with a great, big, whole-hearted Christmas blessing. God be and abide with her evermore.” -Mark Twain, to his wife Olivia, Christmas of 1971