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What kind of Christmas will 2011 bring?

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Posted 04-19-2011 at 07:40 AM by Jeff Westover

I received an odd kind of email the other day. Actually, it wasn't odd at all other than the fact that I received it in April.

Being a Christmas venue we frequently get mail from folks looking for a little help. In recent years we have received a lot of this kind of mail. Here is what we received this week:

Dear My Merry Christmas,

My name is Alison and I am 15 years old.

You have been a big part of our Christmas for a few years now. I think this year you will be our whole Christmas.

My mom lost her job last fall and can't find another one. Her unemployment ran out and she had to take a job working in a dry cleaners. My dad hasn't lived with us for five years and does not send money. We barely have any money any more. My sister and I do not complain. I am hoping to get a job this summer to help.

I am just wondering if there are any ideas you have of what we can do. I really want my mom to have a good Christmas this year. Christmas is her favorite time of year. She used to visit MMC a lot, even in the summer. But she can't do that now because we don't have Internet at home anymore. I am writing this at the library.

If you can help us this year...(snip)

Alison's note brings to mind a number of things for me. As we have worked these past couple of months in contemplation of the season ahead I'd like your feedback about what kind of Christmas 2011 will bring.

Tough times, in my experience, have always led to a more meaningful experience. Sometimes less is more, especially when it comes to Christmas.

But when you are young -- as Alison is -- how do you explain it? What would YOU advise her?

And more importantly, if you knew thousands of people like Alison would be coming here in the months ahead, what would you say to them?

What features should we provide?

What kind of information should we put out there?

How can we make merry a season that seems, on the surface, less hopeful and Christmas-like for some?

These are the things on my mind right now.

At this point in the year we face our lightest traffic of the year in the next six weeks. And then it begins to completely turn around -- week by week until we reach a glorious peak the week of Christmas. Those crowds are coming back. They always do. What do we prepare for them?

I appreciate your thoughts!

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Total Comments 3


  1. Old Comment
    JayIsh's Avatar
    Hi Jeff!

    Tough times may be the new normal, for many years to come. Seemingly, our economy has contracted and with that, bumped really good people to the street with little or no hope of ever achieving the financial success they knew ever again. It's scary...And white collar people are being hammered...People who many of us might have considered rich, are now jobless, and losing homes at an alarming rate.

    The thing, at least for me, that carries me at times like these is spirituality, religion, dependence on a higher power, whatever name you'd like to attach to it. It is the connection to something greater than myself that gives me the courage to carry on. With that in mind, it would seem to me that folks may begin to enjoy the more special moments that Christmas has to offer...Less of the blast of color, and lights and gifts, and more of the comfort of home, and family and love of God. It's almost a return to how things were a generation ago...That generation has been lauded as America's best, so it can't all be bad.

    What if we offered our site as a home to those feeling lost or forlorn, if we help those in need get attached to orginizations that can offer that help...Already it sounds to me like alot of work...but what if we changed with the world? Obviously we still offer the glitz and music and commerce that goes along with the holiday, but we also serve those looking for a soul oriented experience, an experience that one can take with them that does not cost a thing. I don't know how you do that, what things we offer to make a person feel loved as they go back to their lives...But there has got to be something along those lines that we can do!

    Do we write heart warming stories? Friend those that appear here and need a pal, comfort those in pain, or does that open us up in ways that the internet theives would prey on...I don't know...My thought can be boiled down to this...what if we offer emotional gifts rather than physical ones??? I've been called altruistic and naive in the past...some of that naivete' I have on purpose, some is my attempt to not be afraid of where the world is heading...Whistling in the dark, as-it-were...But I can't be the only one afraid now...
    Posted 04-21-2011 at 12:55 PM by JayIsh JayIsh is offline
    Updated 04-21-2011 at 01:03 PM by JayIsh
  2. Old Comment
    made582's Avatar
    I think Jayish said it great.

    My grandma was one of 13 children and grew up during the depression. She taught us that the holidays were a time for families to spend together. It wasn't about how much you spent it was about the love you had for one another. My grandma died when I was 10 but some of my favorite Christmas memories are from the Christmases we spent at her house. They are my favorite because we were all together. My cousins would come over and we would have dinner together. Then we would all gather around the fireplace and sing Christmas carols. I don't remember what I got for gifts back then but I remember the time spent with family. I don't know how you can convince someone that has grown up with the idea that Christmas is all about the gifts and how much money you spend that just spending time together can make the day special but if they would realize that they would see that things aren't as bad as they think.
    Posted 04-22-2011 at 12:04 PM by made582 made582 is offline
  3. Old Comment
    Seawaters's Avatar
    I have several ideas I would like to share, in no particular order. One of the first things I would do would be to share with a counselor at school, close to Thanksgiving time.
    Many communities have a Giving Tree that is supplied with names from the local schools. Make sure your info gets in. In our community, we have several organizations that also do several things to aid families, especially during the holidays: Rotary, Kiwanis, Salvation Army, Lions, etc. Do not be ashamed to put your names in whenever you can. Salvation Army is especially good about getting gifts and food for holiday meals. Check out churches in your area and let them know your circumstances. Many are willing to help and are very generous. Check out the local Welfare Department. Sometimes people feel that a stigma is attached to this public entity, but don't let that deter you. If you do go to one of the clubs, churches, or public entities, and are asked for a list, try to keep it to practical things that you need and add one or two things you really want. I have seen lists that were bizarre (asking for black satin sheets) and some were downright greedy sounding, asking for several expensive items. Most people gravitate to lists that show a lot of thought.

    Right now would be a good time to start planning for Christmas gifts. Definitely limit yourself to your immediate family. Look at yard sales, flea markets, and thrift shops. Books from these make good gifts.

    If you sew, you could plan now to make many of your gifts. Also, you could make some baked goods to sell to make some extra money. Check out your local library on craft books or magazine for gift ideas.

    Could you do some tutoring to make a few dollars from which you could set aside some money for small gifts?

    You could also give your family members coupons for services (for example, a coupon for a 5-minute back rub or a coupon for cooking dinner for a week).

    Another idea would be to organize family photos and maybe even make a scrapbook for each other.

    One of my favorite things to do is to scrapbook recipes for a recipe book. There are many ideas on the internet. You could check out for ideas or do a google search. If you cannot afford scrapbook paper, put that on your Christmas list that you submit to organizations for the holidays. Or you could use construction paper which is fairly cheap.

    I hope these ideas help and spur your own imagination.
    Posted 04-23-2011 at 09:44 AM by Seawaters Seawaters is offline
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