Christmas shopping with a difference

Every Christmas, for as long as I can remember, four friends and I have done a Kris Kindle. We each pick a name and buy just for that person with a budget of about €30.00. I look forward to this: not so much the getting, but the giving. But a motion has been made to drop it this year and instead to give each other something far more valuable – our time.

I was horrified. It’s a tradition. We’ve been doing this for years. It’s part of the annual Craigford party. We can’t just stop it…

But on reflection, I saw sense. Our time is a very precious commodity. Choosing to spend it together, pooling the respective €30s to have that togetherness is way more valuable than a gift-wrapped something I could more than likely have done without anyway. I’ve reconciled myself to the change.

That said, I still love buying. If I had to choose between getting a present and giving one, I’d choose the latter every time. There was a void that needed to be filled.

I wrote some weeks back about Zsuzsa Bozo of the Caledonia Scottish Pub and her Levelek Télapónak (Letters to Santa) initiative. Some 160 children from the village of Gáborjan have written their letters to Santa Claus. In them, they say how good they’ve been throughout the year. They also list what they need, what they’d like to wear, what book they’d like to read, and what would make them really happy. Four things.

lp2The letters, and the accompanying pictures that the kids have drawn, are on display in the Caledonia on Mozsár utca. Ready-made wish lists. Just what I needed. I dropped by and had a look. Some I needed help in translating, but that was no problem. Help was there.

Viktor, aged 5, says he’s been good all the time. Fair play, I thought. That kid deserves to be rewarded.  He’d like books to practice writing and drawing, a t-shirt and jumper, a book on motorbikes, and a police car. Doable, I thought. Definitely doable. In writing my name on his letter, I committed to getting everything on his list.

I leafed through some more and came across Dominik, also aged 5, and a little more of a realist. He’s been ‘mostly good’ all year. How’s that for hedging? He’d like drawing stuff, a t-shirt and jumper, a book on animals, and a tipper truck. Mmmm … tempting. I could have fun shopping for the truck. But I’m not made of money. I have a budget. Something else would have to go.  I thought quickly. My dad doesn’t put much store in Christmas  – he’d be well happy with just a book. Dominik – you’re in luck.

I had a few more minutes to kill so I kept reading. Tibor, also aged 5, admitted to being naughty. I loved the honesty. He’d like a puzzle, a tracksuit, a book on cars, and a tractor and trailer. I couldn’t resist. Down went my name again.

So if your Christmas present from me this year is more thoughtful than extravagant, you’ll know why. There are lots more kids from Gáborjan with wish-lists on the walls of the Caledonia whose hopes are just waiting to be fulfilled. And there are 30 more from the Vamósszabadi refugee camp who really need something good to happen in their lives this Christmas.

If you don’t like shopping, don’t worry. Zsuzsa and her team can shop for you. And if your budget won’t stretch to a full child, then give what you can  – every forint goes one step further to making a child’s Christmas one to remember. What’s not to like about that?    Check it out on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/levelekTelaponak/

First published in the Budapest Times 4 December 2015

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