There is no doubt about it, this is going to be an unusual Christmas. It will be a season that can either bring out the best in us or the worst in us, in every way. For those of us living in BC, we’ve heard Dr. Bonnie Henry end every pandemic update with a variation of these words: be kind, be calm, be safe and if we would but heed these words, we’d get through this well – not just physically, but mentally and spiritually too.
Another emphasis, especially this past week as Black Friday approached us, was on local. If you are privileged enough to have money left to spend this Christmas, support your local businesses and charities (and if you don’t, if you are stretched already, please do not feel pressured into spending what you do not have or feel guilty for needing to be frugal – easy words for me to write, but I hope you can take them to heart!)
Here’s what my sweetheart and I have committed to doing this year:
If you’re a thrifter, you already know that your local thrift shop is a treasure trove of things for Christmas: cards, wrapping, ribbons and bows, trees and wreathes, anything you need for decorating, and of course, ugly Christmas sweaters. Our family always has an Advent Wreath and light a candle each Sunday leading up to Christmas Day, when we light the centre Christ Candle. My wreath is a little untraditional – instead of greenery, I have pine cones (found or thrifted), set in an IKEA tray that I found at a thrift shop. The golden-hued candles are beeswax, purchased at Ten Thousand Villages, the Christ Candle, I picked up at MCC for $1.
At Life’s Second Chance thrift shop, I picked up this fantastic book of Christmas Carols produced by the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Each carol comes with simple music and a guitar chord chart, and is illustrated with artwork from the museum. It’s a fantastic addition to my collection of Christmas books, and it only cost me $2.50.
My sweetheart is adamant that this year, we support local businesses rather than give Mr. Bezos our money. So that’s what we’re doing: gift cards from local cafes and restaurants, presents from neighbourhood stores (that actually were priced the same as what I would have gotten them for on Amazon!), and all wrapped in colour comics that I save all year long to use as wrapping paper. One of our traditions is to do a puzzle each Christmas, often purchased at thrift shops. This year, I chose to buy a new one at one at House of James, one of our local stores, to support them instead.
December 1st is Giving Tuesday and every charity knows that the Christmas season is when people give generously. I have worked nearly my whole career for charities and work closely with fundraisers, so I know how important this time of year can be. When you give, it’s important to know where your money goes and how much of it actually goes to support the cause itself.
I’m going to shamelessly put a plug in for the organization that I work for: Communitas Supportive Care Society. We are a local charity, serving people who live with developmental disabilities, mental health challenges, and acquired brain injury. We serve in the Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island, and the Okanagan. This year, four local community champions have come together to match all Christmas donations to Communitas up to $40,000, which means we can potentially raise $80,000. That is the power of a community coming together. You can support this 40for80 campaign here.
My sweetheart and I are also supporting other local causes close to our hearts – Camp Squeah (where we met,) Gallery 7 Theatre, Cyrus Centre, the foodbank, and others. Writing that out makes it sound like we’re super wealthy – we’re not, by most standards, and I don’t share these things with you to brag or make it look like we’re somehow better than others. We’re not wealthy but we are fortunate. We have been so blessed to be able to continue to work throughout this pandemic, we have food on table, a roof over our heads, a close, caring family and network of friends, and we do NOT take any of this for granted. There may come a season in our lives when we may not be able to do this. We know that the difference between being on the giving end or the receiving end is sometimes only one tragedy away. So this is a way to give back, with gratitude, for what we have, because we can.
My fervent wish is that anyone reading this will find joy this season, even in the midst of this pandemic. Be kind. Be Calm, Be Safe. Think local.