Giving Fear for Christmas: How to Break Free from Gift-Giving Stress

Jerusha Agen Fighting Fear 24 Comments

Jerusha: I’m so excited to introduce you to my friend and delightful writer, Angela Arndt! Please give her a big welcome to the Fear Warrior community! This month, I’m going to be holding more giveaways as my Christmas gift to you. The fun begins now with a giveaway of my own novel, This Shadow, which features a story that takes place during the holiday season (if you already own a copy, you can still enter the contest and give it as a gift if you win). Leave a comment after Angie’s post for a chance to win!

by Angela Arndt

giving-fear-for-christmas-blog-meme-1-1026x1280It’s Thanksgiving evening as I write this and while I sit in my chair, there are people all over this country mapping out their strategy to win a frightening game called Black Friday. It’s been a long time, but I remember standing outside a locked door in the cold, glaring at any shopper who dared to approach the door without acknowledging the proper starting place: the “back of the line.”

When the doors finally opened, we moved like cattle into a chute until those in front broke into a run through the store. Pushing, shoving, snatching, yelling – all for what? A good deal on a television? Five things you don’t need because the sign said buy four and get one free? Is that frantic beat in your heart the thrill of the deal or something else?

Are you afraid of Christmas?

Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about. Even the year I bought everything in July, I still said to myself, “How can it be December? I’m not ready for Christmas!”

Can you honestly say that you’re looking forward to Christmas Day?

Christmas Cards

Even sending Christmas cards can make me anxious. Do I have to send paper cards? Will they think I’m cheap if I send e-cards? Do I pick funny or religious? Is it a sin to send out cards with Santa on them, even if he’s kneeling in front of a manger?

Then there’s the card list. What if I forget someone? If I get a card from someone who wasn’t on the list, should I send one back? Will they know I forgot them?

christmasgiftheldbywomanChristmas Gifts

Don’t get me started about the gift list. Even if I do my shopping in my pajamas in front of a computer or on my phone, there’s some amount of anxiety. I worry about giving that perfect gift, whether it’s in:

The Office

Should I get something for everyone in the office or just my area? What about my boss? Is it offensive to give an African villager a goat in her honor?


When my family says “no gifts,” do they really mean it? What on earth can I get my mother, who has absolutely everything she could possibly need? Or what about my brother who could buy me three times over?


Christmas is for the children, right? How long should I search for that perfect gift for my grandchildren? Is that three-second smile worth it?

One year when our kids were young, we were struggling financially but still tried to make Christmas special by filling the tree with presents. That morning, they ran to the tree, opened a gift then tossed it aside for the next one. That process was repeated until the tree was empty.

By the end of the day, half the gifts were broken and they were playing with the boxes instead of the toys.

christmas-gift-wrappedFive-Year Rule

That’s when I started applying the five-year rule, selecting toys and games that will still mean something in five years, not like this year’s egg-hatching creature. Dolls and action figures stimulate the imagination. Games encourage problem-solving and team-building skills. Good books teach lessons they’ll never forget. And every child needs a Bible they can read.

As you stand in that toy store, imagine where that toy will be in five years. You can even apply the Five-Year Rule to adult presents, too.

Still scared of Christmas? Anxious you won’t do the right thing?

Examine Yourself

  1. Are you trying to win someone’s favor or are you showing your love and appreciation?
  2. Are you choosing gifts to show how much money you spent?
  3. Are you going into debt to buy Christmas?
  4. Will your actions today be Christ-like?
  5. Do crowds of people or traffic cause anxiety?

do-not-be-anxious-christmas-meme-1-1280x853Defeat the Fear

  1. Consider buying your presents online or mandating a handmade Christmas.
  2. Pray for wisdom in selecting the right gift. (I don’t know why I’m always surprised when I find just the right present after I pray.)
  3. Read Matthew 6 to remind you what is important.
  4. Finally, remember that Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ. Don’t wrap your presents in fear, anxiety, or anger. Wrap them in joy.

How do you keep calm at Christmas? Do you have any tips or encouraging stories about keeping Christmas? Please share!



angie-arndtAngela Arndt writes women’s fiction with a thread of romance, telling stories of strong, independent women in difficult situations set in small Southern towns. Her biggest hope is that she will encourage others to overcome their “back roads” and find their own joy in the Lord.

She and her husband, Charles, live on a bee farm in the middle of a big wood with their furbabies: Beau, Harley, and Buddy the Wonder Dog.

Read more thoughts from Angela Arndt at her blog, Joy on the Back Roads. She also team-blogs at Seriously Write.

Connect with Angela at her website, on Twitter, and Facebook.


this_shadow_front_cover-660x1024I’m giving away one signed print copy of This Shadow to one of you who comments below! (Continental U.S. entries only. Winner to be selected Dec. 11, 2016, and announced Dec. 12, 2016, on this post.)

She’s famous for her upbeat outlook. Then the world goes black.

Oriana Sanders is always happy. And why shouldn’t she be? She enjoys a close relationship with God and a purpose-filled career teaching troubled kids. She even has the potential for romance in her sister’s friend, Nicanor, whose dark good looks and brooding manner make him an intriguing project for Oriana.

Oriana’s attempts to reach Nicanor with the joy of the Lord are brought to a halt when a confrontation with her student’s drug-dealing brother ends in tragedy. Facing darkness she has never known, can Oriana learn to forgive the unforgivable and find her way through the shadows to the light?

Comments 24

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  1. Daphne Woodall

    Love my friend Angie. She has expressed all the fears of years of shopping that we don’t discuss openly. I tend to put a lot of thought and go for the unique gift but the practical in me also selects something useable. I’d happily have some honey from “The Beekeeper’s Daughter “.

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      Jerusha Agen

      That’s the trick, isn’t in, Daphne? Finding that perfect balance of unique and thoughtful, yet something the recipient will actually use. No wonder the choosing gets stressful! I’m thankful for Angie’s great tips to help me with that this year. Thanks, Daphne, for stopping by and joining the conversation!

    2. Angela Arndt

      Hey, Daphne! Love you, too! It’s just so hard to know what to buy sometimes. But you know your children and grand so well, whatever you get them will be loved — just like you are! I wish we had some honey this year, but the rains washed away the pollen. We’re having to buy some from another beekeeper! (Isn’t that crazy?)

      I appreciate you and your comment!


  2. Emily Conrad

    I like that you put “are you going into to debt to buy Christmas” on your list of questions. We only have one income right now, and it’s tempting to try to maintain the same price level of gifts we gave when we had 2 incomes. Tempting, but unwise. Because Christmas is about Jesus, it really isn’t about meeting any fabricated standards of gift-giving. It’s about Him. Maybe I shouldn’t admit this… but I’d also never thought of praying about finding just the right gift… Thanks for spelling that out for me 😉 As for the giveaway, I just love This Shadow! 🙂

    1. Angela Arndt

      I know what you mean. Both of us are retired now and we’ll have to cut back this year, too. It’s hard to explain to children of any age, but you’re so right: Christmas is about Jesus. Plain and simple.

      I’m so glad that little tip helped. It’s always helped me find just the right thing. 🙂

      You’re welcome and thanks for commenting, Emily! It’s always great to hear from you!

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      Jerusha Agen

      I had never thought of that tip, either, Emily! Thanks, Angie, for pointing out we should pray about the right gift for someone. Seems obvious, but apparently it isn’t as much as it should be! 🙂 Thanks for the praise for This Shadow, Emily. 😉

  3. Dawn Kinzer

    Angie, you’re so spot on! I had to laugh because even though it’s only December 5, I’m already feeling like I’m behind getting ready for Christmas when it’s really not so! 😉 I like your ideas for giving something that can be used for a 5-year span. When it comes to the grandkiddos, we choose books and items that can be educational and/or spark the imagination. Our gift giving has really become less and less over the years. With grown kids, we all now draw names (as couples) and then choose an inexpensive item that can be enjoyed by both.

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    2. Angela Arndt

      Hey, Dawn!

      I know what you mean: the pressure just keep building, and it’s not for the better. Those sound like great presents for the grandchildren! And I like your idea of drawing names with your grown kids, too. I think I might approach my brothers and ask them about donating money to charity or missions in lieu of gifts this year.

      Merry Christmas, sweet friend!

  4. Mother of 3

    I love this! I do find Christmas stressful for so many reasons and rarely look forward to it (or start looking forward to it and by the third week of December I’m ready for it to be over.

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      Jerusha Agen

      That’s so sad when stress ruins what is suppose to be such a wonderful and special time, isn’t it, Joanne? I can definitely relate! I’m struggling with that now, trying not to let the stress overcome my joy for Christmas. I think the worse stress comes from pressures I put on myself, like Angie talked about. Christmas shouldn’t be about the stuff or even about getting certain things done on time. It should be about Jesus and enjoying His gift to us in this special season of love, peace, and hope. But I forget that too often. I pray you can embrace and enjoy this year, without the stress!

    2. Angela Arndt

      Oh, I’m there with you! And then I feel guilty for wishing that it was all over because we’re supposed to be looking forward to celebrating Christ’s birth. I guess the big thing is to get my heart in order, then go out and fight that bear (the bear of Christmas shopping).

      One year, we should sit everyone down and have a serious discussion about what it would take to honestly put “Christ back in Christmas.” Things like: set a “no-presents policy,” or one where the money goes to charity. (You can do that with adults. Children would be more difficult.) Limit the Christmas outings to one or two. Spend equal amounts with family.

      Think we could actually enjoy Christmas if we did that?

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        Jerusha Agen

        Angie, I have to admit it’s not just the kids who would struggle with that. 🙂 I love Christmas presents! I love getting them, but I especially love giving them! I think that Christmas presents do serve a wonderful purpose, in several ways. They teach kids (and adults, hopefully) the joy of giving, that it’s more blessed to give than receive. And for those of us who have gift giving/receiving as a love language, giving gifts at Christmas can be a special way to express love to one another. In my family, we’ve always given each other a lot of gifts and still do even though we’re now all grown, because giving presents to each other is a way that we express our caring and love to each other. On the other hand, it would probably be even better to give all our money to charity instead, as you suggested, Angie. 🙂 But I do think that gift-giving done for the right reasons can be fun, beautiful, and convey love to others.

        1. Angela Arndt


          Somehow I’m not surprised that giving is your love language. You are so generous in both praise and friendship!

          Yes! Gift-giving for the right reason that doesn’t “ruin Christmas” is wonderful and should be enjoyed thoroughly!

  5. Greg Holland

    I find your advice especially valuable when shopping for gifts for my autistic granddaughter. She’s “19 going on 10”, and is sometimes hard on toys and books. But she loves to read, so I tend to buy more books for her than anything else!

    1. Angela Arndt

      Yes, exactly. We have a friend who’s autistic, too, and we know Ed likes football, especially certain teams. Anything orange is pretty safe with him. 🙂 Find what your granddaughter likes and apply that five-year rule. It’s so great that your granddaughter loves to read because you can never go wrong with a good book.

      Thanks so much for commenting!

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      Jerusha Agen

      Books are such a wonderful gift idea, Greg! And it definitely qualifies for Angie’s Five-Year Rule. 🙂 Your granddaughter is truly blessed to have such a thoughtful grandfather. Merry Christmas to you and your family, Greg. And thanks for joining the conversation!

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    2. Angela Arndt

      Oh, I love that movie! That sounds like a wonderful idea. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

      P.S. Hot chocolate (with marshmallows) is a great shopping stress-reliever, too!

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    Jerusha Agen

    The winner of the print copy of THIS SHADOW is Zoe McCarthy! Zoe, I’ll be contacting you via email. Thank you to everyone who entered and contributed to this great conversation! (And thanks to Angie, again, for the helpful tips on relieving gift-giving stress this Christmas.) Merry Christmas!

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