Christmas Spirit and Frugality: One and the Same?

When you think about the best Christmas stories of all time, which ones come to mind? Are they stories of the rich getting all the material possessions they want? Heart wrenching tales of people who have it all and not a care in the world? Personally, the movies that make me feel warm and fuzzy inside are the ones that get to the true meaning of Christmas. The ones that aren’t all about expensive presents, but about family, joy and love – the stories where, in the immortal words of Dr. Seuss, Christmas “means a little bit more.”

The Christmas movies, books and even songs that really get to the heart of Christmas spirit are about making the most of what we have. Doesn’t that sound like a frugal concept? Therefore, I’d go so far as to say that these tales actually promote frugality and simplicity during the holiday season. Does that sound crazy? Well, let’s take a look at some of the most classic Christmas tales around and find out what Christmas is all about:

How the Grinch Stole Christmas:

That silly, mean old Grinch thought he could “steal” Christmas by taking all of the Whos’ presents, decorations and food. Without all of these things, thought the Grinch, how could they possibly carry on with Christmas? But then on Christmas morning, as he stands looking down on Who-ville, he hears a faint noise:

“That’s a noise” grinned the Grinch, “that I simply must hear!” So he paused. And the Grinch put a hand to his ear. And he did hear a sound rising over the snow. It started in low, then it started to grow. But the sound wasn’t sad. Why, this sound sounded merry! It couldn’t be so, but it was merry VERY! ..Every Who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small. Were singing without any presents at all! He hadn’t stopped Christmas from coming, it came! Somehow all other it came all the same.”

The moral is that Christmas comes, whether or not you have mounds of presents, whether you’re dirt poor or rich. You can’t take the Christmas spirit from people (or Whos) by taking their material possessions. With community and song alone, the Whos are still able to enjoy Christmas, if not in the way they originally intended. It is this that makes the Grinch’s heart grow 3 sizes and bring back the presents, but it is implied that the Whos would have done just fine without a big to-do.

A Christmas Carol:

The Cratchits, one of the nicest and poorest families from any Christmas book or movie, have very little when it comes to money and material possessions. Though they have more mouths to feed than they can afford and Mr. Cratchit’s boss is a mean, stingy old Scrooge, they still gather around to share the love of their family at Christmas, setting the best example of “Christmas Present” for Scrooge. And of course the tiniest one of all proclaims, “God bless us, every one!”

Scrooge’s nephew has this to say about Christmas in Dickens’ great book:

“There are many things from which I might have derived good by which I have not profited, I dare say,” returned the nephew, “Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas-time, when it has come round-apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that-as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!”

Scrooge realizes eventually that he’s, well, a scrooge, and comes around. He gives gifts to the poor and a hearty meal to the Cratchits, among other things. While the Cratchits enjoy their material gifts from Scrooge, the truth is that they had the Christmas spirit in their hearts long before.

Home Alone:

In one of my favorite holiday movies of all time, Kevin gets the opportunity that many kids long for: to be left alone in a big house, able to do anything he wants without consequences. He eats tons of junk food ’round the clock, orders large cheese pizzas, stays up late, watches inappropriate movies, and goes pretty crazy with freedom. However, toward the end of the movie, when making his request of Santa, he reveals (after experiencing the loneliness he feels on his own) that all he wants for Christmas is to have his family back.

Gift of the Magi:

For those of you who are familiar with this story, you’ll know that it’s often associated with this time of year because of its message. In The Gift of the Magi, a young couple is very much in love but is seriously struggling financially. For Christmas, the woman decides to sell her own hair to raise the funds to buy her beau a chain for his most prized pocket watch. He, however, sells his pocket watch to buy her a nice set of combs for her beautiful long hair. In the end, they are disappointed to find that the gifts they presented to each other are now useless, but they each treasure their gifts because they represent the love and devotion of their relationship. In the end, the gestures were what meant the most – not the actual material possessions.

The Little Drummer Boy:

Even the best songs are written about those who make the most of what they have for Christmas. The Little Drummer was “a poor boy too” who had “no gift to bring.” He didn’t think he had anything fit “to lay before the King.” All he could think of was to play a song on his drum. So he utilized his talents to entertain the baby Jesus, earning both His gratitude and the gratitude of the Virgin Mary.

So, What is Christmas All About?

If you’re not sure yet, Linus will tell you, Charlie Brown:

See, you can still appreciate Christmas even with a dinky little tree. Whether you’re religious or not, Christmas should be a time to carry a song in your heart. A time of joy, celebration, peace and love – all things that you can’t buy. Happy Holidays, and as always, thanks for being a Tip Hero!

Photo credit: s_herman, Nice Girls TV, jade19721