Merry Christmas, Ben Franklin!

Rough Christmas this year?  Yeah, I’ve had some of those too. Our hardest came when my husband was out of work and had been for eleven months.  We were down to eating what we could grow in our backyard garden. The kids were sick of spinach and beets and tomatoes!  But Christmas had always been such a special time for us, and I just couldn’t bear to let it go.

For Thanksgiving our church brought us a gift box with a turkey and all the fixings.  There was a card, too, with a twenty dollar bill tucked inside.  How we had feasted on that delicious turkey!  I cooked all the food, but the twenty I hid away for Christmas.

We knew a couple who owned a Christmas tree farm, so I got up my courage to ask if they might have a reject tree they would sell us cheap.  They said no but they would let us have any tree on the lot for ten dollars.  We chose a lovely one.

I still had ten dollars for gifts.  I went to the local thrift store and bought my husband a shirt, my daughter a sweater, and my son a sweatshirt.  Then I got each one their favorite candy bar for their stocking. 

Just three dollars left!  

A sudden inspiration sent me to the library.  I rifled through a huge selection of donated books—paperbacks: 15 cents each, or four for a dollar.  I bought twelve.

Our tradition has always been to list the gift as from some name that will give an obscure hint to what’s in the gift.  (For instance, a checked flannel shirt might be from Paul Bunyan.) So on each individually wrapped book I put a tag with the recipient’s name, then from Ben Franklin.  (We do have him to thank for our public libraries, after all!)

My expectations for that lean Christmas morning were slim.  But an amazing thing happened–everyone loved it!  We all spent the day nibbling our favorite candy bars and reading by a crackling fire. 

When I ask my kids talk about their favorite Christmases, guess which one is always at the top of the list?  Right!  And still today, twenty years later, every Christmas someone gets a couple of gifts from Ben Franklin.  Just because he was there when we needed him.



“I conceive that the great part of the miseries of mankind are brought upon them by false estimates they have made of the value of things.”

Benjamin Franklin 



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8 responses to “Merry Christmas, Ben Franklin!

  1. Love this, Kay. I always wish for more in the way of simplicity in celebrations, a reduction in the number of gifts piled under the tree, and a huge increase in the amount of love and time we spend with each other. Have a blessed holiday!

  2. And to you too, my dear B.J. Blessed Christmas!

  3. Jean Stewart

    You are amazing, Kay, to make the Christmas you had nothing turn into the Christmas you had everything! Blessings to you and yours, dear friend, and Merry Merry Christmas!

  4. And Blessed Christmas to you, Jean!

  5. Loved this post. Thanks so much for sharing it. I just made fudge for some friends.. maybe I’ll sign the tag from Julia Childs :~)

  6. Shelley

    Kay, How lovely. You just gave me a fun idea for my family gifts this year–to bless them with the old books that we’ve had on our shelves for so many years, tied in bright ribbons! Merry Christmas, Martha (as in Stewart!)

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