In England, and many current and former British territories, December 26 is known as Boxing Day, where the more fortunate box up gently used items and donate them to the less fortunate. (Back in Victorian times, the very wealthy didn’t even have to leave the house–they just had the staff carry things from upstairs to downstairs for distribution!)
In our family, though, the tradition lasted a week. And that wasn’t because we were wealthy, had a big house–nor did we packrat a lot of stuff!
If new came in, old/not often used went out. For instance, if I got new pajamas for Christmas, I had to choose an older set ‘for the box’. The house my parents built was small, so there wasn’t room for much duplication. Mom’s goal was to clear out by New Year’s Eve, by which time things were donated to our church, shelters or community organizations (like MCC here in Kidron) that would distribute to the less fortunate. Although Mom appreciated the work that Goodwill and Salvation Army do in the community, she didn’t want the recipients to have to pay for clothes, toys or housewares. About the only thing we kids didn’t have to pitch in were books.
As we got older, it got easier to decide what stayed and what went that week after Christmas. Now I find I do it almost automatically, after slacking off in my early married years.
Think about paring down though January 6, the celebration of Epiphany, when the Wise Men visited and gave gifts to the infant Jesus, with no thought of return. Gather your own ‘gifts’, things that will help those less fortunate. Even the simplest thing to you can be deeply appreciated by someone who has very little.
Even when things were tight when I was a child, Mom reminded me that we had what many folks didn’t: a full pantry packed with preserved foods from our garden, a warm place to sleep every night, and a close family who cared. I can still hear her voice now, urging me to ‘go through that closet one more time’, to make sure I’ve sorted, chosen and tidied up the things I’ve chosen to donate this year. I hope that you choose to make this process a post-Christmas tradition in your family too.