Whoville Austrian Mountain Village

Who Stole the Joy?!

It was an unusual interview. The interviewer explained she was writing an article for a national women’s magazine on clever ways to put more joy into the holidays.

In that I’ve written a book on the subject, she called hoping I would help her with the story. I knew that I could.

Whoville Austrian Mountain Village

In my typical overly excited manner I proceeded to pitch to her one marvelous holiday cost-cutting idea after another—some of them principle-based, others uniquely practical.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that something wasn’t right. One after another, my ideas landed with a thud. She didn’t like them at all.

And that’s when she made a comment that effectively brought the interview to a screeching halt.

She called me a grinch.

Now she didn’t actually come right out and say, “You Grinch!” She said that if she wrote an article encouraging the unthinkable practice of not incurring debt, buying fewer gifts, or cutting back in any way, her readers would think she’d interviewed that old you-know-who himself.

While she suggested my ideas would take all the fun and joy out of the season, she assured me it was nothing personal. But still, she called me a grinch.

Not being one who can easily let things go, I had to get to the bottom of this. I had to find out if what she suggested about me was in any way true.

In my zeal to encourage people to take back control of Christmas from the locked jaws of commercialism, had I taken on a striking resemblance to that cranky old holiday grump, the Grinch?

I was quite certain I knew where to find out. And sure enough, right there on the shelf between Horton Hears a Who and Hunches in Bunches I found it—that familiar bright red storybook: How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

The Grinch hated Christmas. The whole Christmas season! Now, please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason….

It seems that for 53 years the Grinch has lived in a cave just north of Who-ville—he’s an ornery old soul with a heart two sizes too small.

The Grinch detests the holiday celebrations down in Who-ville. He hates the singing, the celebrating—all that noise, noise, noise, noise! So he devises a great Grinchy trick to get rid of Christmas forever: He dresses up like Santy Claus, ties a big horn to his dog Max, and hitches him up to a makeshift sleigh. He waits until all the Whos are fast asleep then heads on down into Who-ville.

He steals all their presents, their ribbons, the wrappings; the tags, and the tinsel, the trimmings—the trappings!

He hauls all the loot to the top of Mt. Crumpit where, in a huge fit of glee, he proceeds to—you guessed it—dump it!

There! His task is complete. He’s taken care of Christmas once and for all. All the noise of the fun, all the joy and the love—even the smallest hint of the season is gone forever.

But what’s that sound? It’s not sobbing, but singing! The Whos begin celebrating with no presents at all. The Grinch couldn’t stop it, Christmas came just the same. It came without packages, boxes, and bags.

I sat there recalling why I love this story so much. And I admit it, I felt delightfully smug. That writer was way off base.

I’m not the grinch in her story. I didn’t steal the joy. Her grinches are consumerism, overindulgence, and overdoing—the attitudes that insist Christmas is something we can find in a store, mail order catalog or the Internet.

If you’ve noticed the joy of the season is missing from your life—that no matter how hard you try, something’s just not right—maybe those grinches are to blame. Maybe it’s time to let them know they’ve lost their power.

Authentic joy comes not from all the outside trappings, but from our hearts; from the story of the birth of a small baby who would become our Savior—from that love, that can fill our lives with giddy joy.

So let the singing begin!

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  1. Pamela says:

    The first person I encountered (as an adult) who had great ideas about how to save money was – wait for it – Martha Stewart. She was on one of the morning shows demonstrating how to use brown mailing paper to wrap Christmas presents and still make them festive (metallic paint stencils, IIRC). That was back before God started making dirt, so…(also wrap celery in tin foil, it keeps FOREVER). But most important, this is a forum for sharing. Mary does the work so we don’t need to. The Grinch shared nothing, he just took. Mary shares everything to help us make our lives better. Mary is Christmas writ small – EVERY DAY (I’m making that 3 ingredient cake tomorrow, btw, thank you very much!) Merry Christmas everyone – and Mary, thank you!

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  2. Pam Shaeffer says:

    You’re not a Grinch! I remember picking up a paperback version of your Debt Free Christmas book at a thrift store years ago. It had so many creative ideas for making Christmas more affordable and meaningful. Like you, I loved shopping for others at Christmas-time at the mall. It was a bit like a drug. It made me so happy, but I was always stressed out about picking the right gift and anxious about over-spending. I also remember a friend of mine who always picked small, unique, thoughtful gifts to give which didn’t cost a lot. I was impressed by that and by your gift ideas. Now that I’m older, I think the gift of time and telling those important to you that you love them and that you appreciate them is the best gift of all. Those words and actions are what people remember. At least that’s my thinking.
    Keep providing those wonderful ideas for gifts. Ine if my favorites is the gift in a jar of questions tailored to the individual. Still haven’t done this but maybe 2022 is the year I will. Thank you for the years of excellent advice on living below one’s means.
    Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones.

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  3. Jacqui says:

    Amen, Mary, and well said! You are not a grinch, you’ve expressed what we all could use as a reminder: JESUS is the reason for the season! Merry Christmas, happy New Year and God bless you and your family and all of your readers.

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