Redefine Christmas

If you’re like me, you’re basking in the glow of the wonderful Christmas holiday.  Relaxing by a warm fire, surrounded by twinkling lights and adoring family members, you drink egg nog, watch the snow fall and envision world peace.

Aw, cut the crap.

This is the most stressful time of the year.  We’re bombarded with crass commercialism, want to throw Nat King Cole into the roasting fire along with his goddamn chestnuts, and barely have time to take a you-know-what.

Chill, dude.

Join me in surfing over to Redefine  A simple website with a handsome holiday look, it’s the home page for “a movement that re-imagines the way we look at gift giving during the holidays.”

The site explains:

We often feel compelled to spend money and time on gifts with little meaning.  Gifts which are soon forgotten.  Rather than giving in to the convention of giving, we can give out – by redirecting some of that money to charity.

The site urges people to give friends and family members donations to their favorite charities — in their names.  It suggests asking others to do the same for you.

“Giving this way is more personal,” Redefine Christmas says.  “And it can be more meaningful – to the receiver, the giver and the countless people and organizations who are truly in need.”

The site helps users search through nearly 1.8 million charities.  You can also purchase charity gift cards, so friends and relatives can choose their own favorite charity on their own.

How nice and warm, the “06880” cynics — and you know who you are — say.  But why is Dan wasting valuable pixels on such universal fuzziness?

As with everything else on the planet, Redefine Christmas has a Westport angle.  One line at the bottom of the website gives a local address:  Box 766, Westport, CT 06881.

Nothing else, anywhere, hints at who’s behind this effort.  There’s no “About Us” tab.  No “Founders’ Bios.”  Certainly no “Read More About The Men And Women Who Care!” link.

I could dig further.  I could ask around.

But no.  That would diminish the spirit of Christmas.  It would defeat the whole idea of giving for giving’s sake.

Besides, I’m outta here.  I have to get to Circuit City before it closes.

The joys of Christmas.

27 responses to “Redefine Christmas

  1. Thank you, Dan. Redfine and rediscover. It’s time.

    The other day I thought I saw the Ghost of Christmas Past hip-check somebody on his way to grab the last Nintendo DS at Best Buy.

  2. Lawrence Zlatkin


    You’ll have a tough time finding Circuit City. It went bankrupt and liquidated its remaining brick and mortar stores last year.


  3. That’s why I had to leave early.

  4. Thanks for a reality check, Dan. Btw, I love the falling snow…

  5. Dan I believe you are not defining CHRISTMAS but instead the “HOLIDAY” season in general. Christmas is all about the celebration and wonderment of the birth of our (Christians) savior. If anyone needs a refresher tune into a “Charlie Brown Christmas” for Linus reading of the story of the nativity ..and it came to pass …. or for those that can read pick up the new testament.
    Christmas is not gifts or commercials or a new Mercedes Benz it is a celebration of faith , hope and charity to believers. No disrespect to any other celebration of the Jewish, Muslim or African holidays, they are sacred to their believers. Celebrate and worship your beliefs. But please do not redefine Christmas, it is Christ’s birth we celebrate. Instead redefine the modern holiday that is now the day after Halloween to the day after the Superbowl and all its mindless superficiality. And please do not be offended when someone in the next few weeks bids you a Merry Christmas, it is meant in kindness, not a challenge to your personal beliefs. God bless and Merry Christmas all.
    PS… sitting by the fireplace hanging stockings with the kids and Nat King Cole are very special things to me and bring back memories of some very happy days with loved ones who are no longer with us and hopefully will be remembered by the kids in the same way some day.

  6. Whoever they are — many thanks.
    Will do my best to circulate this.

  7. There is another group called the that is spreading a similar message- instead of a gift -give the gift of time whether it be time with your family or time to a charitable organization.

  8. The Dude Abides

    Christmas is for the kids. That remains to be very special. Otherwise, it is one pain in the butt. And I am not giving to any charity that takes 98% for administrative expenses. I would rather slip a $100 to Tina. Excuse me while I go untangle damn tree lights for our overpriced diminuitive blue spruce and then go to the Post Office where I will stand in line for an hour before they ask you fifteen questions just to send a package. I will, however, take your advice of “chill dude” to heart. Maybe that will be my New Year’s resolution.

  9. There are many, many rankings of charities and it’s really quite simple to find out if one you are interested in supporting is well run or a disaster. Anybody remember the scandal at Westport’s own Save The Children not too many years ago?

    As for The Dude “chillin'” it’s easy at this time of year. Just ignore it all. Tell the kids no tree, no presents over $10 and you’re giving all that money to the charities of their choice. Simple, stress-free and far more needed than a new iPod. Have a Healthy 2011 All. Including The Dude.

  10. The problem is no one roasts chestnuts over an open fire anymore

  11. Xanax.

  12. Brilliant.

  13. Kerith Harding

    Christmas doesn’t need to be “redefined”, it needs to be “reclaimed”. Christmas is a Christian religious holiday that celebrates the birth of Christ. The gross commercialization of Christmas, and the gross consumerism that ensues, is not what Christmas is about. In Christian theology, what we celebrate at Christmas is the fact that God sent God’s son as a gift to us, to communicate God’s love to the world. Ultimately, it was because of his radical love, and his tireless work to communicate it to all people (with a preference, some would say, for the poor and oppressed), that the religious and secular authorities of the day became threatened by him had him put to death. We celebrate his rising again on Easter (which, by the way, has nothing to do with a Bunny, but I’ll save that sermon for another time).

  14. The Dude Abides

    Kerith makes a valid point as does CHIP (above) but it must be remembered that the majority of Americans do not belong to a church. Thus, the rich tradition of my Westport past such as a Swedish family dinner followed by a candlelight service at Saugatuck Congregational Church have been lost. Unfortunately, to “reclaim” Christmas, we would have to make a drastic shift in our total dedication to Corporate America and a minimization of our addiction to “stuff.”

  15. If you want to make sure you are donating to a fiscally sound charity, check out

    In flipping through radio stations, I heard some woman say she favored the song Frosty the Snowman because it didn’t have Christian overtones. Hello? That’s the whole point of Christmas! We, Christians, are happy for those of other religions to share in the good spirit and joy that comes with the season, though. And God bless us, everyone!

  16. Check out Ben Stein’s “Confession” recited by him on CBS’Sunday Morning Commentary.

  17. Amen.

  18. I’m not sure how much this holiday is going to “reclaimed” as a celebration of the birth of Christ. Religion, outside of the “fundie” areas that certainly do not include Fairfield County, is less and less important to younger and even middle-aged people. It plays a smaller role in our lives than it did in the 20th century. Which is fine with me, frankly. But I still call the day Christmas, and everyone I know does.

  19. I just made a donation to Save the Children in my brother’s name for Christmas. The last thing he needs is more crap, the first thing this country needs is fewer starving children, and I trust the people up the street to spend my money wisely.

  20. Elisabeth Keane

    God Jul, Dude. Do your memories of a Swedish Christmas Eve dinner include lutefisk?
    Merry Christmas to all, with or without lutefisk. Be heartened by the love and affection in which you are held by family and friends. Extend kindnesses; they will bring light to the recipient and to you. Pause if you can and feel the stillness as you look out across the marshes or walk in the woods or along the beach. Try to hear the music around you (although if adolescents live in your house you probably will hear it easily). Holidays and family gatherings often bring about serial reminiscing accompanied by fits of laughter. Savor those moments; you will learn their worth later on.

  21. The Dude Abides

    No lutefisk. 100 years of traditional lobster newberg, swedish meatballs, string beans, kerv sausage, vot limpa bread and peppermint ice cream. 3 generations and my kids hate the food. Done. Many memories but new traditions are fun as well. Gingerbread house competitions on Christmas Eve instead. Thanks for your very meaningful thoughts. A season to ponder how wonderful a life we lead.

  22. Elisabeth Keane

    Your Christmas dinner sounds wonderful. Traditions evolve and our’s was the blending and evolution of many generations of Norwegian and Swedish traditions by my parental families who celebrated Christmas with gusto. Christmas Eve dinner began with bondost, nokkleost, gradost (wish I could figure out how to do umlauts when typing), knokebrod and herring prepared three different ways followed by lutefisk , boiled potatoes with butter-parsely sauce (no cheating by camouflaging the lutefisk with mustard sauce); very small hand-formed Swedish meatballs from old family recipes; lingonberry sauce. The dining room was lit only with candles and the tree lights. After the main course, dishes were washed by the older children (we learned early on how to handle antique china; I can remember no breakage and believe me, if there had been breakage I would still be hearing about it) and then the traditional risengrot (Norwegian version similar to Swedish versions; it is not the fabled porridge to which some people add meat and other things) was served. A blanched almond had been stirred into the homemade rice pudding before it was brought to the table. Tradition held that whoever had the almond had to recite a verse which over the years ranged from brilliant to doggerel and all great fun. More dishes were washed while the adults conversed at the table. Then, everyone went to the living room where Mother played the piano and accompanied the singing of Christmas carols. The tree, usually between 8–10 feet high, resided in a doorway between dining room and living room. We returned to the dining room and gathered around the chairs in the bay window. The children sat on footstools near the tree and distributed presents to one or two people at a time with pauses to allow the recipient(s) to open their presents which then were passed around and admired by all. Then on to the next round, and so on. (Small fry were required to make a presents for everyone, usually drawing a picture however simple and wrapping it.) Distributing presents took quite awhile but it was done with ceremony and taught the lessons of patience and the pleasure of giving to others as well as the discipline of not choosing presents for themselves from under the tree. Childrens’ presents would be presented to them by someone else. In due course, papers and ribbons were tucked away and coffee was served (the children had milk) and then Mother placed the cookie plate on the table. She usually made 32 different types of Christmas cookies (krumkake was always the first to be made because it took so much time and always on the Saturday after Thanksgiving; it took three of us 8 hours straight–that’s why we needed three, to spell each other now and then) to make the necessary amount of krumkake); by the time she was in her mid-80s, there were only 15 different types. Sometime during The Cookies, a knock would be heard at the front door and one of the children sent to investigate. It would turn out that the Tomte had arrived and had left a present for each child at the front door. Excitement abounded and after that, children were sent to bed –much later than usual of course, but Christmas Eve was special. Soon, the sound of the church bells announcing midnight services were heard outside.
    Christmas Day began with a simple breakfast of knokebrod and cheese, lingonberry sauce, herring, hard boiled eggs and juice. We would open the small presents in the stocking, presumably from Santa. Mother would read the Christmas letters received from family in Norway and Sweden. Then off to church and later, preparing Christmas lunch for family and close friends. Christmas lunch had the cheeses and flatbreads from the night before, lingonberries, Swedish meatballs, potatoes and vegetables and ham with a glaze Mother generally used only at Christmas. Presents would be distributed to the visitors after The Cookies and coffee followed by the singing of more Christmas carols.
    Nothing was lavish except love and good cheer.

    • I am stuffed just reading about this. What great traditions — and memories. I hope kids growing up in Westport today will have warm recollections years from now about their holidays — am I dreaming?

  23. The Dude Abides

    Ms. Keane: Very nice, lovely in fact. We were allowed one present on Christmas Eve and then a very orderly opening of gifts the following morning. We had a designated Santa who waited until everyone witnessed who got what and then would move on. Unfortunatley, the solemn exchange has turned into a free-fall madhatter scramble of everyone jumping in and just self-serving themselves. Everyone in a hurry to be bored several minutes later. No ONE really to blame but for my EX-WIFE! Thanks for sharing. Merry Christmas and many more memories.

  24. I’ll be heading to Westport to see my parents for Christmas. It’s been a few years since I proclaimed “This is the best Christmas ever.” I said it, meant it, for 15 or so years. However, I always felt inconvenienced and bothered by our few family traditions. Traditions,however, were the equivalent of a new tenspeed (iphone) for my grandparents. Sharing those traditions called the kids from their rooms (from their neutral corners) and made us gather to do something we didn’t want to do. Imagine that: getting the kids to do what they didn’t want to do.
    Those very things, the ones I never wanted to do are the things I miss most.