If you’re looking to celebrate Christmas with more joy and less debt, “Hundred Dollar Holiday” is a classic book that’s well worth reading or re-reading.
Author Bill McKibben started thinking about a new type of Christmas out of concern for the environment and the poor. He thought about all the waste involved in Christmas—the overspending on gifts, the boxes, the wrapping paper, and such.
But as he went about lobbying for less, he realized that what people really wanted was more—more joy. He provides a good roadmap to that joy in “Hundred Dollar Holiday.”
Christmas In Context
The book opens with the fascinating history of Christmas. You’ll discover how December 25th became the date for Christmas (hint: it doesn’t come from the Bible), why the Puritans tried to ban the Christmas celebration, and where Santa Claus came from.
You’ll learn where the tradition of decorating a Christmas tree originated, how Christmas became commercialized, and who rearranged the date of Thanksgiving to allow more time for Christmas shopping.
Understanding the history of Christmas may help you focus on those aspects of the holiday that have more noble beginnings while putting less attention on the ones with a more checkered past.
Made for More Than Gifts
In order to design a more meaningful Christmas, McKibben suggests that we consider our own design.
He says we were made for contact with the natural world, community, and connection with our Creator. Among his suggestions for celebrating Christmas with these aspects of our design in mind, McKibben points out that it’s a time of year when we can easily knock on the door of neighbors we barely know to hand them a plate of brownies or draw them to the door with a group singing carols.
Consciously choosing less materialistic ways to celebrate Christmas also leaves time and energy to reflect on our relationship with the Person whose birth we celebrate. Especially during these tough times, we could all stand a little less time at the mall and a little more time receiving His peace that transcends understanding.
The Gift of Time
One of McKibben’s primary arguments is that time is far more valuable than things, and if we really want to make the holidays meaningful, we should rethink our use of time.
Do you typically spend 10 to 20 hours shopping for gifts? Why not reallocate that time toward making gifts with your children, spouse, and friends?
Chances are, you’ll build tighter connections, create more enduring memories, and give gifts that are more meaningful to the recipients. Instead of coming out of the holidays with weaker finances, you’ll come out of them with stronger relationships and a deeper sense of satisfaction.
As for the dollar figure mentioned in the book’s title, McKibben says there’s nothing magical about the amount. Larger families may choose to spend more; smaller families may choose to spend less. The main point is to reconsider the extravagant amounts typically spent on Christmas, and to realize that in spending less than you normally do, you’re likely to enjoy the holiday more.
While McKibben hopes to encourage and teach readers how to transform the usual hustle and bustle of Christmas with an eagerly anticipated, significant celebration, he also hopes readers will take the ideas in his book beyond the holidays. “It’s possible,” he writes, “that you’ll find yourself enjoying Christmas so much that you’ll try to rearrange your life to have more of it all year round.” Amen to that.
Now is the time to plan ahead for a more meaningful, less debtful Christmas. A great step toward those ends is to read “Hundred Dollar Holiday.”
What non-materialistic Christmas traditions do you have that make the holiday especially meaningful?
Matt is the author of three personal finance books published by NavPress, including his latest, Money and Marriage: A Complete Guide for Engaged and Newly Married Couples. Matt blogs at Matt About Money. When he isn’t reading or writing about money, Matt enjoys hanging out with his wife and three young kids. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter.
Emily Guy Birken says
I don’t celebrate Christmas (I’m Jewish), although I did grow up with it. I find that it’s really important to me as an adult to remember the lessons I learned from growing up with Santa Claus and the spirit of giving. So I like to volunteer my time where I can. This year, I’ll join others from my synagogue to offer babysitting services at the local church for Christmas Eve services, so that parents can attend the services worry free.
I also prefer to give (and receive) the gift of time. Taking a couple of hours to teach a friend or family member how to sew or cook will provide both of us with so many more memories than any thing I could give as a gift. Spending an hour with my aunt and a scrapbook of my grandparents and great-grandparents so that she can tell me all about the family who passed away before I was born will mean so much more to both of us than a material item.
Matt Bell says
Wow, Emily – amazingly cool what you do on Christmas eve. And what a great affirmation about the importance of time spent with the people we care about. Your story is really inspiring to me. Thank you!
Joanne Mahoney says
Good article. As our family has grown, my husband and I pick a charity, and donate in our family’s name as our gift. Of course it is still important to donate to charities throughout the year. Even giving blood, or your time (which doesn’t cost anything but your time), is important.