While Christmas shopping last week, the thought hit me that most Americans waste too much money. I became aware of it when I saw this year’s answer to Big Billy Bass. It’s an unfortunate deer strapped to the hood of a hunter’s truck that suddenly rises up and sings. You can have it for about $20.

Around my house are singing penguins, dancing Santas and neckties that play favorite Christmas carols. There are stuffed moose, reindeer and snowmen. My wife Debra likes cows, so we have figurines of bovines skiing or pulling sleds. There’s even one dressed as Santa that wishes you a mooo-ry Christmas.

Several Christmas movies have become a holiday tradition at our place. We often find ourselves watching the DVD copy we bought to replace the VHS version of the movie that it turns out is playing on Fox Movie Classics every night this week.

I love the Charlie Brown Christmas special, the first one. Good Ole Charlie Brown was lamenting the commercialization of Christmas over 40 years ago. I have that one on DVD now, too — and the soundtrack CD.

Music also makes the cash registers ring at Christmastime. Holiday songs have always played a big part in my enjoyment of the season. When I was six, my brother and I got little red record players for Christmas and my days of collecting recordings began.

For years I was content to pull out my favorite Christmas albums and enjoy those familiar tunes, while each year adding to the roster. Then came CDs, and I found myself buying the same recordings all over again.

Today there are compact discs repackaging tunes from Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and others in imaginative ways. The last time I looked, none of those vocalists were recording any more songs, but every year new albums are released mixing and matching the tunes.

Christmas also brings out our favorite selections from The Barking Dogs, Shirley and Squirrley, Alvin and the Chipmunks and Conway Twitty with the Tweety Bird. During my years as a disc jockey, I got to hear these classics for free but now I’m adding them to my personal library.

This year while digging in the middle bedroom (the junk room) for Christmas lights, I noticed a couple of nice presents I’d gotten the year before and had forgotten. These were things I would actually have used, but they were buried under decorations and lights that had been stashed there after the holidays last year.

A few years ago a man named Damien we had met on a mission trip to the Ivory Coast in West Africa came to stay in our home for a few days. He marveled at the size of our modest house, our abundance of food, closets full of clothes, comfortable beds and the amount of money we Americans waste. I admit, I felt kind of guilty about it for a while.

Sometimes when I peel off another $20 to buy something like an elf that sings like Elvis, I think about what Damien said and the people who could use that $20 for, say, a month’s worth of food.

I think about the children whose names are on the Angel Tree, and those who’ll benefit from the Toys for Tots drives. I think of those who need clothes or a good meal.

Some of the stories we’ve covered this month have made me more aware of the many kind people who volunteer their time and money this time of year to let others get in on the joys of the season. These are the ones who have discovered it really is more blessed to give.

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Rich Flowers is an Athens Review staff writer. He can be reached at rflowers@athensreview.com.

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