By Sherry Brooks
St. Nicholas, originally a Greek Bishop of the Catholic Church in the third century A.D. was born into wealth and gave his inheritance to the needy. So, our modern St. Nick, a.k.a. Santa Claus is truly related to the religious "reason for the season."
We all need to remember that true Christmas joy is found in acts of kindness and generosity and doesn't have to revolve around glossy, glitzy decorations and shopping.
Instead of exchanging a multitude of presents, family, co-workers or friends can plan to have a "Yankee Swap". Each person brings a wrapped present of a predetermined cost.
A bowl with numbers on slips of paper from one to the amount for each guest is passed so that random numbers can be drawn. Person number one chooses a present and opens it.
Person number two can take that gift or elect to open another gift, and so on. An opened gift can usually only be grabbed three times and the lucky third person gets to keep it. Hilarity will ensue.
The swap can be a "White Elephant" swap. Guests bring something they received in the past but now longer want. There are groups now on their twenty-second annual - or longer - Yankee Swap. Guaranteed bonding for very little money.
Consider having a "potluck" brunch, dinner or cocktail party. Not only will the cost be contained, the workload shared and the planning curtailed; the guests will feel useful.
Potluck parties increase interaction, because there is so much to talk about amongst the guests. This is particularly helpful for those who are new to the group or shy.
Recipes, ingredients, flavors, presentation and the chaos of getting the dish to the party are neutral, easy topics and the conversations take off from there.
A cookie exchange party can be so much fun, and you get to bring home a pretty tray of assorted holiday cookies, too.
Each guest bakes four-dozen favorite holiday cookies and brings an empty tray or container for display and for filling to take back home. The hostess provides a large table for displaying the cookies.
If you are traveling for Christmas this year, consider getting a small live Christmas tree in a pot for your home to enjoy before you leave rather than buying a regular cut tree.
When you return from your trip, plant the tree either in the ground near a window of your home or in a large clay pot outside.
Each year as the tree grows, you will be reminded of your Christmas season when you purchased it and ultimately, in several years, it will be large enough to decorate with lights and birdseed ornaments or metal balls with patina from the thrift store.
You will now have a full sized "Christmas Tree" planted in front of a window (or you can move the potted version in front of a window or French doors) and it can be enjoyed each evening from the comfort of your home, giving the option to bypass buying an annual cut tree.
Following Christmas morning, save any high-quality ribbons torn from packages and press them with an iron or curling/flat hair iron to reuse again and again.
The more we cultivate simple, warm traditions like these, the more resources we will have to share with those less fortunate.Sherry Brooks is a healthy, happy and trim "Frugalista" living the lean and green life near Malibu in sunny southern California. Follow Sherry on Twitter