We are cutting way back on Christmas shopping this year, and I have vowed that I will not set foot in a mall. I'm really not a mall person anyway. In fact, I am planning to do all my shopping within my town, which could be really challenging. I'll get some stuff online, but beyond that we're talking about our local bookstore and the odd little peace shop that seems to be able to stay in business. Cool store, but the choices are really limited to the few people I know who will put up with incense-scented gifts. Hey, I like it, so if you get a Buddhist prayer bell or some wacky peace pot, you know who to blame.
If you don't want to spend your days fighting for parking spaces and traipsing around an overcrowded mall or hitting every Target and Pier One in sight, what can you do? Well, you can get creative. Now the ideas I'm going to suggest certainly aren't for everyone, and I don't know if any will suit children, but I'm just going to throw some suggestions out there and maybe one or two will stick.
For the coffee lover, check out Mystic Monk Coffee by clicking HERE. I have not yet tried this coffee, but I've heard good things and I'm all for supporting the Carmelite Monks of northern Wyoming. I'm hoping to try this coffee soon since I am, in fact, a coffee lover. Hint, hint.
For the cheese lover, visit the venerable Trappist monks of the Abbey of Gethsemani (of Thomas Merton fame) by clicking HERE. I recently received a lovely selection of Gethsemani cheeses from a good friend. The monks also make bourbon fudge and bourbon fruitcake. No bourbon in the cheese, as far as I can tell. I want to visit the real Gethsemani some day, not just the web site. It's on my long-range "to do" list.
Speaking of Trappists, I can't forget the monks of St. Joseph's Abbey in Spencer, Mass. They make 28 flavors of preserves without any artificial gunk or preservatives. You can check them out by clicking HERE. I have a Trappist friend who lived at Spencer for a while, so I have a soft spot for this abbey, which is also on my list of places to visit and is more likely to happen since it's not that far away.
For the cheesecake lover on your list, visit the Orthodox Nuns of New Skete by clicking HERE and checking out the rather pricey but obviously delicious offerings. Amaretto and creme, chocolate amaretto, eggnog, Irish creme, Kahlua, pumpkin, and more. Yum.
And then there are the more eclectic offerings to be found at In-His-Steps by clicking HERE. I bought a beautiful and funky handbag from this group when our parish school held its annual craft fair. I bought it as a Christmas gift for someone, but I'm going to have a hard time parting with it. Perhaps I can get the intended a bourbon fruitcake instead? In all seriousness, this group does great work in Cambodia, helping orphans and widows, abused women, and victims of human trafficking to get their lives on track. They sell at craft fairs and other offbeat places, so check out the schedule on their web site.
Now, I've given you quite a few creative gift ideas, but equally important is to tell you what you should NOT buy. I'll just offer one warning: Stay away from the "Nativity Rubber Duckies." I'm not kidding. They actually make such a thing. Here's a photo, in case you don't believe me.
Why? Why, I ask you, would anyone need or want rubber duckies dressed as the Holy Family and assorted shepherds and magi? It's beyond bizarre. Almost as strange as the Maximilian Kolbe doll for children. Some things just shouldn't be toys. Enough said.
And this leads me to my next suggestion. Perhaps, if for any reason we feel compelled to buy something like a Nativity rubber duckie, we have simply purchased far too much. Perhaps we should reconsider Christmas and what our giving is all about. One organization, Redefine Christmas, is promoting that idea full force at its web site, which you can visit by clicking HERE. Redefine Christmas is all about giving gifts of charity. Maybe the person who already has everything doesn't need another sweater or tie. Maybe he'd get more satisfaction out of knowing that his gift helped someone who doesn't have enough money to buy food or who can't afford to give their children books. Check it out, and if you don't like any of their ideas, pick your favorite charity and strike out on your own.
Christmas gift giving has gotten out of hand. This year the economy is threatening to bring everyone back to their senses, but maybe, just maybe, we should be giving more thoughtfully and more simply regardless of the economic outlook. It's not about the gifts; it's about the Gift.