Image credit: silviarita on Pixabay / CC0 Public Domain

Every year it’s the same in my household: Advent looms at the horizon and I haven’t thought about how to observe it this year. The traditional colour for Advent is purple, which is the liturgical colour of mourning. This period has two faces: one of sorrow because Christians believe that Christ was sent to us to suffer and die in our stead, but also of joy, because we look forward to the Second Coming. The Feast of the Nativity of Christ, also known as Christmas, is a bitter-sweet feast.

There’s the temptation to go overboard and get lavish decorations and enormous amounts of food, but at the same time Europe is suffering under a huge economic crisis. Last week, I read that record numbers of people are seeking professional help getting out of increasingly high debts. More and more people are losing their jobs because bankruptcy numbers are still rising.

It just didn’t feel right to go out for the annual Christmas tree hunt in the third week of Advent. Christmas trees are easily €30 for a simple tree. That’s the tree only, no decorations. And at Epiphany, we put it at the side of the road to be recycled. So I decided I’d do something different. I bought some decorated boxes and colourful ribbons instead of a tree.

Christmas boxes

In the upcoming days, when I do my Christmas grocery shopping, I will buy some extra luxury things to stuff the boxes with. Then I’ll donate the filled boxes to the cathedral to help families in our parish who face difficult times right now.

In The Netherlands there’s this old tradition where employers would give their employees a box with groceries to prepare for Christmas. Usually it has the extra nice things: chocolate, sausages, cheese, wine. Things that are expensive. I remember when my father would come home after the last working day before Christmas with a big box full of sweets and other delicacies.

But if you don’t have a job, you are home and you won’t get a box like that. What if I make some of these boxes and gift those to my parish so they can give it to these people on the last working day before Christmas? In the upcoming days, I will spend my Christmas budget on luxury items to stuff boxes with and skip the tree and the decorations.

Instead, for next year I’ll get an artificial tree on the Third Day of Christmas when secular stores start their post-Christmas sales. Sometimes you’ll be able to get items priced down by 75%. I will still put these nicely decorated gift boxes under my tree, and fill those with groceries to give away.

Merry Christmas to all of you!