Should the Christmas shopping crowds, costs and commercialism be at odds with how one is trying to observe Advent and the celebration of the birth of Christ, there's a burgeoning world of alternative ways of gift-giving that are vying for attention, reports the Catholic News Service.
* Angel trees or giving trees set up in churches, schools or even restaurants and other commercial businesses around the country are an increasingly popular way to direct resources to needy individuals, usually children, in the local community.
* About 500 Catholic organizations host sales of handicrafts from around the world through Catholic Relief Services and its partner, SERRV, a nonprofit fair trade and development organization, benefiting both the hosting church and impoverished craftspeople around the world.
* Then there are alternative gift programs, in which one buys a gift that benefits someone in greater need, whether in a far-off land or at the social service program across town. In return, the buyer receives just a card about the donation to pass along to someone on their gift list.
* If those options don't seem quite right, a movement started in the 1960s by Canadian Mennonites promotes the idea of a "Buy Nothing Christmas," encouraging simple handmade gifts, an "abundance swap" where gift-able items are traded, and ready-to-print coupons for baby-sitting, back massages or desserts. Its materials may be found at www.buynothingchristmas.org.
In Los Angeles, members of St Paul the Apostle Parish have for more than a decade been able to write checks after Mass on the first Sunday of Advent to an assortment of local and national service organisations. Recipient organisations this year include Meals on Wheels, a tutoring program for homeless children and Homeboy Industries, which gives youths an alternative to gang involvement.
Claire Henning, pastoral associate at St Paul, said parishioners who participate in what they call Inspired Alternative Christmas Gifts write checks directly to the organisations, so she couldn't report what the level of donations works out to be for the recipient charities.
FULL STORY Thriving alternatives for less commercial gifts (CNS)