If you really want to start at the beginning of the story, it all started with my parents, the Clemens’, probably more than 20 years ago, who wanted to get us away from the consumer-mentality so often attached to Christmas. They wanted us to spend the day together, thankful for God’s gift of Jesus, thankful for each other, and remembering that Christmas is about a lot more than receiving presents.
That started Creative Christmases for our family — some Christmases were all handmade, other years we drew names out of a hat and, after buying something on a $40-50 budget, made something bigger around it, and accompanied it with a poem for the recipient.
This year we decided to do a small hand-embellished gift for under $30 for the person whose name we drew, with a $20 donation each to a charity we all agreed on. That meant that between the 7 of us that were present this year, we’d be making a $140 donation. And that’s where we come to the story of the $140 brussel sprout…
As my Mom and I were walking through the grocery store on Christmas Eve, gathering the last ingredients for our Indian-style feast, we noticed a sign posted where the brussel sprouts usually were. Clearly, they had run out, and as a joke, were auctioning off the store’s last little sprout.
We had a good chuckle, took a photo, and moved on. On the drive home, as we talked about it, we decided that we would like to add our name to the list, bidding $140 for the single, remaining brussel sprout, on the condition that the money would be donated to the local food bank. We called around to our other family members to see if they were okay with the idea, and made the final call to the grocery store to get our name written on the list, and make our donation commitment.
During Christmas the following day, we showed off the photo to everyone, joked about photoshopping our own name and donation amount on the sign, and generally discussed how much we enjoy the way we choose to celebrate Christmas together, focusing on family time more than worrying about what gifts to buy for each other.
A couple of days after Christmas, I got together with some friends I rarely get to see, and we chatted about how each other’s holidays had been. At some point, one of the girls asked me what I got for Christmas. I hadn’t thought about it at all until then, but as I enthusiastically shared that I had received a large glass jar of gluten-free pancake mix, I realized that my gift might sound very anticlimactic to some.
This is what I really appreciate about Christmas with our family. We don’t make a big deal of giving and receiving lots of presents and, as a result, we have a lot less stress around the holidays than most people we know. In our time together, we’ve realized that, for us, spending a lot of money looking for something special for one day of the year isn’t worth the hassle. And especially, between Earl and I, when the money comes from the same bank account, does it really matter?
This year has provided us with a lot of opportunity for reflection and time for discussion. Earl and I were able to talk about the what we want for our family, the kind of lifestyle we wanted to have for ourselves and the way we look at the world.
Until now with the Clemens family we’ve chosen to draw one name each to gift at Christmas, mostly because we really like the creativity with which we’ve surrounded it — the homemade gifts, and especially the poetry, but we’re open every year to taking that part out, and just sharing the day together. This was the first year where we opted to give on a bigger scale by donating, even just a little bit, to a bigger cause. And to be honest, it felt great!
When people ask about my holidays, I tell them I’ve had a great Christmas. I don’t judge it based on the gifts I received, but how I spend the time with those I love. For us, this Christmas had some great quality time with family, and not having to stress out about what to buy for everyone makes it even better.
So, if someone asks me about my favorite Christmas present, I’ll have to say the $140 brussel sprout, the gift of meals for a family, and broader perspective for ourselves.