Let’s face it. We all have a lot of stuff. We have stuff in cupboards and stuff stashed in drawers. It lurks in our sheds and under our beds. Most of us have far more stuff than we need. Now Christmas is coming and chances are we will both give and receive even more. But do we really have to?
Giving something different
I’m not saying we shouldn’t give gifts at Christmas. I’m simply suggesting giving something other than things. There are many ways to do this. Lots of charities now sell special cards. The amount spent on the card is given to those who really need it in the form of farm animals, school equipment, medical supplies and so on.
You may have charities you already support. Instead of buying objects this Christmas, you could make a donation on behalf of family and friends. Include some information about the charities in a card. This gives others the opportunity to learn about causes close to your heart.
Consider your own gifts
Another way to think differently about giving this Christmas is to consider your own gifts. Each of us has skills and abilities we can share. Perhaps you have a knack for gardening or the expertise to build a website. You may be a champion pizza maker or speak a foreign language fluently.
Think about how these talents may delight, surprise or benefit others. Can you offer your services as a present somehow? Can you teach someone your skills? Reflect on each friend and family member in turn. Which of your gifts fits best with them? What can you do that will be most valuable?
Sharing time and energy
Approaching Christmas giving like this may require more time and energy than just buying stuff. But that’s sort of the point. It is your time and energy itself that is the gift. For most of us these are scarce resources. That’s what makes giving them so precious.
Your offer to cook a delicious meal, help out in the garden or look after the kids four or five times during the year means you are giving your time and energy so others will have more for themselves. It is an act of generosity that rewards both giver and receiver.
My Christmas gift
One way I practice this kind of giving myself is by baking lebkuchen. I have been making these German gingerbread biscuits every Christmas since I was a teenager. My friends eagerly anticipate them and I value the time and energy that goes into their creation. I make them with a happy heart, knowing they will bring joy.
As a gift to you, I am including the recipe for these biscuits below. I hope this Christmas you can find ways to share your own gifts of time, energy and ability with those you love.
Lebkuchen (German gingerbread)
100g unsalted butter or margarine
100g golden syrup
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon allspice
3 to 4 pieces crystallised ginger, finely chopped
300g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 dessertspoons water or milk
150 g icing sugar
Lemon juice (optional)
Butter or margarine to grease baking tray
Water for basting
- Bring the butter, syrup, sugar and spices to boil while stirring. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
- Gradually add sifted flour and baking powder to syrup mixture. Add water or milk if the mixture becomes too dry.
- Mix in the chopped ginger and knead on a floured surface. Put aside for two hours so the spices can permeate the dough.
- Roll dough out onto a floured surface to a thickness of about 3mm. Make sure the surface is well floured or the dough will stick. Cut into the shapes you desire and place on a greased baking tray. Brush with a little water.
- Bake at 180ºC in fan forced oven or 200ºC in an ordinary oven for 10-15 minutes. Keep an eye on the biscuits to make sure they don’t burn. Allow to cool on a wire rack.
- To make the icing, separate one egg and beat the egg white into soft peaks. Gradually add 150g icing sugar to form a smooth consistency. Squeeze in a little lemon juice if desired. Brush or pipe the icing onto the biscuits.
- Your biscuits will be very crisp at first but they will soften after a day or two.