Our Christmas General Store

The Christmas season invites thoughts of peace and joy, yet with five young children all wanting to give gifts to each other, our family time often turns to shopping time and messy crafts. One Christmas we decided to try something different and developed the idea for our Christmas General Store, which we continue to use.

Several months before Christmas I begin buying or making small gifts that our children would like. On the first of December, with the General Store inventory already in stock, we tell the children that it is time to begin earning “family cash” for doing chores. We explain that family cash can be used to buy Christmas gifts for each other. We make a list of jobs the children can do and give each job a cash value. We help the children set goals for how much cash they want to earn. During the next few weeks our happy little helpers go to work to earn their family cash.

One eventful evening before Christmas we open our Christmas General Store. The children wait outside the room where we display the gifts. Mother, the store manager, opens the door and announces that those wanting to buy gifts for a nine-year-old girl can come in. Everyone but our nine-year-old files into the room to make choices from the goods displayed. Each child pays with family cash and tucks away the rest until the next department opens.

During the evening, the department store cracks open again and again. Mother announces the opening of the men’s department, where gifts for fathers can be purchased or other departments specializing in Christmas gifts for little girls and little boys. Dad runs the courtesy gift wrap department for those in need of assistance.

Our Christmas General Store has turned shopping hassle into Christmas fun. We enjoy the gift-giving portion of Christmas with our young family, helping us to feel more at peace during the holiday season.Karen A. Kimball, Irvine, California

[illustration] Illustrated by Beth M. Whittaker

Holiday Cheer—on Your Own

Being far from home and family can be difficult at Christmastime, but with thought and prayer you can make this time meaningful. To make holidays away from home special, plan to do things with others, for others, and for yourself.

Invite people over. Whenever you feel alone, look around. There may be others in a similar situation. When my husband was in the army, we invited people from his platoon for dinner in groups of two and three. Check your office, school, neighborhood, or ward for others who may be alone or lonely, and invite them to a potluck dinner or a cookie bake night.

Doing something for others is a great way to forget your loneliness. There are numerous organizations that can use a helping hand during the holidays. Consider homeless shelters, Sub-for-Santa programs, private or military community service groups, or hospitals. You can pack food baskets, repair and wrap toys, or deliver items to needy families. Perhaps you and your group of friends would like to help a needy family on your own. You could also write letters home or to family members. If you are missing your family, they are probably missing you. Write to missionaries too. Cheering up others is a great way to cheer up yourself.

Stay busy. Start or catch up on your journal or photo album. Write about your Christmas or other holiday memories. Begin a holiday album with memories, photos from past years, cards, recipes, and stories. Bake cookies for neighbors.

Keeping things in perspective is especially important. Pray for peace of mind, and keep the meaning of the holiday in your heart.Paula J. Lewis, Blanding, Utah

Celebrating the Season—Together

Each December we feel a spirit of renewal and hope as we prepare for the holiday season. To help keep stress down and increase our enjoyment of the holiday, we have found the following ideas helpful.

  • During a November family home evening, sit down together and share expectations with each other. Discuss approximate budget guidelines and the coming month’s plans and activities.

  • Spend an evening together preparing Christmas cards to send to family and friends. This spreads out the workload and allows children to learn more about loved ones. Perhaps they can also decorate envelopes.

  • Compile a family Christmas book of favorite Christmas memories and inspirational stories. This can easily become a family tradition, with new remembrances and stories added yearly.

  • Have each family member write out good deeds received from others on colorful paper decorations. Then decorate a tree or Nativity set with these daily good-deed decorations.

  • Select a family and leave anonymous gifts or treats at their door.

  • Go caroling, especially to new families in your neighborhood.

  • Stuff stockings with “Santa’s report card” of nice things that person did during the past year.

  • At some point, either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, make a special time to share testimonies about Jesus Christ, read from the New Testament, and sing carols.

Giving of ourselves in some of these special ways has helped to make our holidays more enjoyable and our memories richer.Timothy B. Smith, Vermillion, South Dakota

Dinnertime Home Evenings

Two family home evenings stand out as special to our family. The first was held one winter evening when we used only our woodstove, candles, and oil lamps to heat and light the house. We determined no electricity would be used. For dinner we wrapped food in foil and cooked it in the wood-burning stove while we talked and told stories in front of the fire. As a result of that night’s activity, our children better appreciated why people who lived in earlier times read by candlelight and went to bed early. They also realized what a blessing electricity is in our lives and took an interest in helping us plan our emergency storage supplies of matches, candles, and oil for the lamps.

Our other favorite family home evening activity, which we often do, begins by giving each of our children one dollar to buy something for dinner that all could share. Our only rule is that it cannot be a dessert. What a fun challenge! The children study the supermarket ad carefully, then split up to go hunting for bargains. Our children have bought fresh salad, broccoli, meat pies, burritos, and other delicious foods. We spread out a clean tablecloth on the front room floor and eat our meal picnic style for added fun.Deanna LeBaron, Orem, Utah

[illustrations] Illustrated by Joe Flores