As our ongoing national financial angst ripens and matures, more and more people are questioning the premise of loading up credit cards to buy barely needed Christmas gifts.

There are some good options available that hold real promise for "rebooting" the holidays and reverting to older ideas about the fundamental meaning of this season.

Locally, maybe the top example is the Gifts That Make a Difference fair, to be held Saturday, Dec. 12 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Liberty Theater. Shoppers will donate to participating non-profits in the names of people on their gift lists, receiving holiday cards that tell the recipient how the money will be spent.

Dozens of area non-profit entities will be on hand - everybody from Camp Kiwanilong to the Ocean Park Food Bank.

In a less formal and organized way, now is a good time to increase your giving to your own church or directly to a favorite local organization. Do so in the name of your mom, dad, spouse or kids, and then let them know that they inspired your action with their own lives of generosity and compassion.

There also are other good options for charitable giving, one of the most famous of which is Heifer International, www.heifer.org. Heifer essentially lets Americans have direct positive affects in the lives of impoverished people around the world by doing things like giving $20 to start a flock of ducks for a family in need. It's a neat program and really works.

Inside our own families, try doing the unexpected: This could be the year when dad should try his hand at making cookies. Or the kids can give certificates good for one free hug or complaint-free cleaning-out of the car.

There are countless other ways to celebrate this Season of Light without spending lots of money. To the extent we do go shopping for actual gifts for under the tree, we can help our own neighbors by resolving to buy products made in our area, or at least in our own nation.

Let's all support one another this Christmas and carry these habits forward to all the years ahead.

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