Gifts for the Savior

One December we gathered our family together for a family meeting. We asked our 11-year-old son how it would be if on his birthday the family members gave presents to everyone but him. He didn’t like that idea at all. We went on to ask if there was a holiday when we gave gifts to others but not to the person whose birthday we were celebrating. It didn’t take the children long to realize we were talking about Christmas. That year, however, we wanted to make Christmas more meaningful by giving gifts to the Savior, whose birthday we were celebrating.

Three-year-old Laralyn headed to her room and returned carrying her favorite doll. “Daddy, could I give my dolly to Jesus?” she asked. We explained that the Savior knew of her willingness to give him her most prized possession and that he would want her to take care of the dolly for him. She was delighted and said, “I love giving gifts to Jesus!”

By now our older children had become more reflective. What could they give the Savior? We discussed what he would want. We talked about how he had paid for our sins and wanted us to give them up. We talked about how he would want us to give of ourselves through service and sharing our talents. Gifts could also include being more obedient in such areas as journal writing, scripture reading, and keeping the commandments.

We put a little white box on the fireplace mantle and asked our family members to write their gifts on slips of paper and place the slips in the box. Then we explained that on Christmas morning, before all of the other gifts were opened, we would have family prayer and then share with each other the gifts we were giving to the Savior for the coming year.

As the years have come and gone, the tradition of the white box has helped our family focus on the real meaning of Christmas and on our love and gratitude for the Savior.Scott and Angelle Anderson, Bluffdale, Utah

Planning to Feed a Crowd: Seven Easy Steps

Feeding a crowd this holiday season? Whether it’s a sit-down ward dinner for 300 or a punch and cookies family party, you can plan for it by following the same basic steps:

  1. 1.

    Know your budget. Determine available funds. Allocate the funds among food, decorations, publicity, and, if needed, rent for a facility.

  2. 2.

    Decide on the location. Visit the location before the event and draw a site plan. Decide where food should be served and decorations placed. Check to see if there is a source of water for cleanup. Arrange for a key if necessary. Will signs be needed to direct people to the event?

  3. 3.

    Estimate attendance. For most groups, about half of those invited show up. For an exact count, check with invited guests beforehand.

  4. 4.

    Plan the menu. Choose foods that fit your budget. Determine quantities. When you calculate amounts of food, provide larger amounts of popular items. During hot weather, plan for more cold drinks than usual. Shop to determine who will offer the best prices on large quantities of food; some places offer discount or bulk prices to church or service organizations.

  5. 5.

    Recruit help. For best results, form a committee and appoint a chairman. Be clear about each person’s area of responsibility. Some assignments might include decorations and table settings, publicity, food purchase and preparation, serving and cleanup help, and program planning.

  6. 6.

    Publicize the event. Use invitations, flyers, posters, personal contact, bulletins, newsletters, or announcements. Remember to include a map or give directions if the place is not well known. If verbal announcements are to be made, give information in writing to the person conducting the meeting. Include the day and date, time, and place of the event and name of a person to call for more information.

  7. 7.

    Design the decorations. Choose a theme to help coordinate decorations with publicity and invitations. Sometimes food can be used to decorate, such as a pineapple cut for display or used as a base for toothpicks holding other edibles. Table settings, whether formal or informal, can also serve as part of the decorations. Decide whether to use paper, plastic, or china dishes and what type of utensils to use.

With planning and organization, you’ll feel less frantic and enjoy the event more.Janet M. Grambo, Indianapolis, Indiana

Dividing Up the Paycheck

One of my most memorable family home evening lessons as a youth was when my dad taught our family the importance of budgeting money. One night he brought home a month’s wages in cash and stacked the bills in the center of the kitchen table. Eyes wide, my brothers and sisters and I listened as he explained that the money belonged to the family and asked what each of us would spend it on if we had sole control of it. Our answers ranged from a new bicycle to a collection of doll clothes.

After he had listed all the things we wanted, Dad calmly reached over and counted out some of the bills, then set them aside. “These are for tithing,” he explained. Once tithing money was set aside, Dad explained that we had some expenses we were required by law to pay and others we had promised to pay. He then began counting out other stacks of bills, which, he explained, would be used for taxes, the house mortgage, car payment, and utilities. As we watched, we began to understand that we needed to provide for the family’s obligations and needs first, not individual wants. Finally, with only a small pile of bills left on the table, Dad asked us again what we would do with the money. This time our answers reflected less-selfish purchases, and we made suggestions such as repairing the torn screen door and purchasing a pump for our bicycle tires. Mom wrote all of our suggestions down, and we spent time that evening discussing our priorities and making decisions together on how the remaining money should be used. We talked about the benefits of a savings program for future needs such as college and missions, and we discussed the benefits of adhering to a budget.

That lesson had such an impact on my life that my husband and I tried it with our own family. To my amazement, the effect of that lesson on our children was similar to the effect it had had on me. After that lesson, our children were more understanding of our financial responsibilities and goals and became less selfish and more concerned with the needs of our family.Margo Johnson, Salt Lake City, Utah

[photos] Photography by Welden C. Andersen

[illustrations] Illustrated by Beth Maryon Whittaker