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THE REAL SPIRIT OF GIVING

Putting the reins on Christmas excess
By D Magazine |

Traditions-if we can turn an old phrase-are made to be broken, and at Christmas more than any other time we see holiday trappings that perhaps should be done away with altogether. Breaking and replacing traditions that could stand to be improved upon is the raison d’etre for Alternatives, a nationwide, nonprofit, multi-denominational organization. Alternatives says ’tis the season to reclaim Christmas from the Madison Avenue grinches who have stolen a holiday and made it a sell-a-bration.

The Rev. Betsy Alden Tur-ecky, the group’s regional representative, says it often takes a “conversion experience” for people to see the need for reclaiming Christmas from the merchandisers. Her change in thinking came nearly seven years ago on Stem-mons Freeway. She read, to her overwhelming disgust, a garish billboard that read, “Oh Come Ye Successful.” Converted, Turecky vowed she’d do all she could to make Christmas different. “

As we celebrate, so do we live,” says Milo Thornberry in the Alternatives catalogue. “The ways we celebrate are more than symbols of the ways we live: they are its very essence. Spending $17 to $18 billion [as we do nationally) to celebrate Christmas is more than symbolic. . .. Such spending represents disregard for the world’s poor and a disrespect for the earth….”

A pamphlet, “Guidelines for Alternative Giving,” has some suggestions for those “who want to be more intentional in their giving.” Following are some of the group’s suggestions:

1. Remember whose birthday it is. Gifts of our time,skills, and money to support”the least of these” are “thebeginning points-not theafterthoughts-of gift-giving at Christmas.” Alternatives suggests spending intime, skills, and money atleast 25 percent of whatyou spent on last year’sChristmas celebration.

2. Plan your gift-giving.Don’t wait until the lastminute when the commercial pressures are always thegreatest.

3. Give yourself. Almost anyone can write a check and sign acard, but the one gift that’salways timely, original, andneeds no battery or further assembly is you.

4. Buy with conscience. Thinkabout who’ll profit from the giftsyou buy. Do you want to seethem get rich?

The reputation of society’s most famous gift-giver has been sullied a bit by the commercialism of Christmases past, but in the beginning, at least, Santa’s heart was in the right place. The first Father Christmas was the third-century Bishop of Myra in Asia Minor. An Alternatives devotee wrote some new verses for “Jolly Old St. Nicholas” about the real St. Nick:

“Thankful Bishop Nicholas/ Friendly, good and wise; When he could he helped the poor/Always by surprise./Rich men came to Nicholas/Bringing wealth to share/So it could be sent to those/Living in despair.”

For more information on Alternatives, contact Turecky at 980-4009 or write Box 429. 5263 Bouldercrest Road, Ellen-wood, GA 30049.