I’m not going to talk a lot more about the political nightmare currently unfolding in New York, as the President-Elect selects appointees who go beyond “unqualified” into “unmitigated disaster” territory. As days go by and hate speech increases and we hear about white supremacy groups (I will call them what they are, not some soft-and-fuzzy euphemism like “alt-right”) celebrating Trump’s election, I have felt increasingly disheartened.
This is not how we should start our Christmas season. This is a season to come together to celebrate joy, peace, and love, to be generous and open-hearted. We in our family start thinking about our annual donations, and helping those more needy than ourselves. All of us want to draw near to family, friends, and neighbors in relationships of generosity and selflessness.
That’s pretty tough when everyone is bitterly divided and hurting.
Which is why it’s the perfect year for us to restart the Christmas Basket tradition.
This is an annual tradition my parents started in their neighborhood, and I did one year when we first moved in. Since then, I’ve slacked off. But, as I said, this is the perfect year to do things that show generosity and encourage building connections rather than walls.
What Is the Christmas Basket?
As the name implies, it is a basket that we fill with holiday-related items, things like candy canes, candles, chocolate, holiday-themed cookie cutters, napkins, ornaments, etc. I give the basket to our neighbors, who take out things they want and put in more things to share. Then they pass it along to their neighbors, who do the same thing. Eventually, the basket makes it all the way back to our house, having passed through all the homes in our neighborhood.
I do make sure to include a sheet of instructions, along with a neighborhood map indicating all the houses the basket should go along to next.
This year I’ve also added something new: A small notebook in which to write a holiday greeting or encouraging note for neighbors to read and share. Often the basket just appears on a doorstep, without any actual interpersonal interaction, so it seemed to me like the notebook idea would let people share more directly with one another.
The last time I did this, I kept it confined to the 10 houses in our cul-de-sac, and we did get the basket back in the end. This year, however, I’m boldly including a map for our entire neighborhood of over 80 homes. It’s a lot, way more than my parents have ever done, so I have no idea if it will succeed or not. If I start the basket tomorrow, on Black Friday, it would have to go through about two houses a day to make it by Christmas.
Not likely; but we’ll just see what happens. I figure, worst case I’m out about $100 of miscellaneous Christmas goods. Even if the basket doesn’t make it far and we never see it again, it will certainly reach some of our neighbors. That’s reason enough to try. There’s always next year, to see if it gets a little farther.
I encourage you to think about doing your own Christmas Basket, or some other similar community-building thing, with your neighbors as we start thinking about ways to heal and grow after this tumultuous and divisive year. Please also share your ideas for how to reach out in tangible ways to overcome divisions and encourage healing. I’d love to hear some other ideas.