Friday, November 14, 2008

Great Christmas tradition!

Russ and I used to do this, some how we got away from it and that saddens me! It's time to bring 'er back!! It is long, but worth the read!

It's just a small, white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree. No name, no identification, no inscription. It has peeked through the branches of our tree for the past ten years or so.

It all began because my husband Mike hated Christmas--oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it--overspending... the frantic running around at the last minute to get a tie for Uncle Harry and the dusting powder for Grandma---the gifts given in desperation because you couldn't think of anything else.

Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual shirts, sweaters, ties and so forth. I reached for something special just for Mike.

The inspiration came in an unusual way.

Our son Kevin, who was 12 that year, was wrestling at the junior level at the school he attended; and shortly before Christmas, there was a non-league match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church. These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, presented a sharp contrast to our boys in their spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes. As the match began, I was alarmed to see that the other team was wrestling without headgear, a kind of light helmet designed to protect a wrestler's ears.

It was a luxury the ragtag team obviously could not afford. Well, we ended up walloping them. We took every weight class. And as each of their boys got up from the mat, he swaggered around in his tatters with false bravado, a kind of street pride that couldn't acknowledge defeat.

Mike, seated beside me, shook his head sadly, "I wish just one of them could have won," he said. "They have a lot of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right out of them."

Mike loved kids - all kids - and he knew them, having coached little league football, baseball and lacrosse. That's when the idea for his present came. That afternoon, I went to a local sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes and sent them anonymously to the inner-city church. On Christmas Eve, I placed the envelope on the tree, the note inside telling Mike what I had done and that this was his gift from me. His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year and in succeeding years. For each Christmas, I followed the tradition--one year sending a group of mentally handicapped youngsters to a hockey game, another year a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground the week before Christmas, and on and on.

The envelope became the highlight of our Christmas. It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning and our children, ignoring their new toys, would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents.

As the children grew, the toys gave way to more practical presents, but the envelope never lost its allure. The story doesn't end there.

You see, we lost Mike last year due to dreaded cancer. When Christmas rolled around, I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely got the tree up. But Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree, and in the morning, it was joined by three more.

Each of our children, unbeknownst to the others, had placed an envelope on the tree for their dad. The tradition has grown and someday will expand even further with our grandchildren standing to take down the envelope.

Mike's spirit, like the Christmas spirit will always be with us. May we all remember Christ, who is the reason for the season, and the true Christmas spirit this year and always.

by Nancy Gavin
(This story originally appeared in Woman's Day magazine 12/14/1982)


Anonymous said...

That's a great story/idea!

We have done something similar the last several years with my siblings. We used to draw two names for Christmas...and then we all realized that we get so much stuff we don't need to do that. So instead, we each donate to a charity that we feel some kind of connection to, and we share that with each other when we do our gift exchange. It's my favorite part of the evening!

Bill and Melodie said...

OK, I'm sitting here in tears, Fern is looking at me like I have lost my mind. I want to do this so bad and just can't seem to get the rest of the fmaily on board with it. I may just do it anyway and maybe they will catch on next year!
So great, thanks for sharing!!!

amy said...

awesome idea! i love the anticipation/excitement of the envelope and the message it sends the kids. thanks for sharing....

Terry said...

Thanks for sharing this idea! It's already one of our family traditions to head to the mall the day after Thanksgiving to pick 2 (now for each person in our house) angels from the angel tree. But we're going to add this tradition this year, too.

Laura P said...

This is a GREAT tradition! As this is only our 2nd Christmas home with the kiddos I am always looking for ways to make it more about others and Christ. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...


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Meghan W said...

Ok, yeah... totally crying. That's beautiful :)

Amanda said...

ok... warn me before you post a tear jefker like this next time!! my dad started something similar several years ago, instead of giving gifts to each other, we give whatever we would have spent on gifts and give it to a family in need. I like this idea though. Giving to someone else as a gift for a family member... my wheels are turning!!