This post was originally published August 16, 2008 and has been slightly updated/modified for 2009.
Summary/Review of Hundred Dollar Holiday by Bill McKibben
This short book is packed with information! I want to just give an overview here– the book is such quick read that you’d do better to just read it yourself than for me to go into much detail. I read it to my husband in a couple of hours while we were driving because I liked it so much.
The first chapter is a historical overview of Christmas, mainly in our country. This part was very interesting as I had always wondered about the origin of things like Santa Claus. The main point McKibben makes here is that Christmas is, and always has been, a product of the culture. There is no “perfect/ideal Christmas” that he’s trying to get us to revert back to. It’s simply shifting the focus to where our culture needs it to be.
He then proceeds to describe what the “Hundred Dollar Holiday” is all about. Essentially, the idea is to simplify gift-giving so that the rest of Christmas becomes the focus– time with family, enjoying the outdoors, and most importantly, celebrating the birth of Jesus. McKibben gives lots of great ideas for gifts that cost little to no money, and points out that the title reference to $100 was written mainly for alliteration and that a reasonable goal will vary depending on size of family/friends you want to give gifts to. Obviously a big recommendation is to make gifts, which not only costs less and fosters less of a greedy, consumerist mentality, but also provides a time for your family to be together, making gifts together.
The best analogy he gives in my opinion is the analogy of a birthday party. For whatever reason, we all love to give and receive gifts in honor of birthdays. McKibben points out that we understand the idea that when we go to a birthday party, we get to take part in the festivities, enjoy the cake and maybe even take home a goodie bag, but we delight in honoring the Birthday Girl or Boy, and not ourselves.
This is how Christmas should be celebrated. Jesus is the Guest of Honor. We take part in the festivities– the parties, games, meals, family time– and even enjoy our own little “goodie bags,” like a stocking or simple homemade gifts. But I think that primarily, this is a time for Him to receive the gifts- our love, our lives, our devotion. Christmas can and should be a time of rededication, reverence and reflection amidst all the fun.
McKibben declares that his point with the “Hundred Dollar Holiday” is not primarily to save paper, save money, or save anything else, but rather, to find more joy in the holiday. The economic and environmental benefits, although present, are secondary to the personal and spiritual benefits.
How does this sound to you?