white envelope

Secret Service Saturday-White Envelope

Today’s idea is one that I posted last year, but I think that it is worthy of  posting again this year.

We have a tradition in our home that we started a few years ago.  My children are all grown and married, and every year we would go through this little ritual– They would say, “Mom, what do you and dad want for Christmas?”  and I would reply “that we really did not need anything,” and I could never come up with any ideas for them.

We usually all get together for Sunday dinner, and three years ago at one of these family nights, I read the following story to my family.  It reminds me so much of my own husband, because he does not like the commercialism of Christmas just like the man in the story and all of our kids had to agree, and thus was born the tradition of the White Envelope.  It is truly the highlight of Christmas for my husband and I.  We wake up on Christmas morning and we read the letters from each of our children and their family and I must admit, that it usually brings tears to our eyes!  What a beautiful way to start our Christmas Day!

This is our “White Envelope”, I made it out of fabric and it goes on the Christmas tree.  You could use any white envelope, but I decorated it up and we use it year after year.  All of the grand kids know exactly what it is and they get caught up in the spirit also!

Here is the story that I read to my family:

“For the Man Who Hated Christmas”

by Nancy W. Gavin

 It’s just a small, white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree.  No name, no identification, no inscription.  It has peeked through the branches of our tree for the past ten years or so.

It all began because my husband Mike hated Christmas–oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it—overspending…the frantic running around at the last minute to get a tie for Uncle Harry and the dusting powder for Grandma—the gifts given in desperation because you couldn’t think of anything else.

Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual shirts, sweaters, ties and so forth.  I reached for something special just for Mike.  The inspiration came in an unusual way.

Our son Kevin, who was 12 that year, was wrestling at the junior level at the school he attended; and shortly before Christmas, there was a non-league match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church.  These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, presented a sharp contrast to our boys in their spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes.  As the match began, I was alarmed to see that the other team was wrestling without headgear, a kind of light helmet designed to protect a wrestler’s ears.

It was a luxury the ragtag team obviously could not afford.  Well, we ended up walloping them.  We took every weight class.  And as each of their boys got up from the mat, he swaggered around in his tatters with false bravado, a kind of street pride that couldn’t acknowledge defeat.

Mike, seated beside me, shook his head sadly, “I wish just one of them could have won,” he said.  “They have a lot of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right out of them.”  Mike loved kids- all kids – and he knew them, having coached little league football, baseball and lacrosse.  That’s when the idea for his present came.  That afternoon, I went to a local sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes and sent them anonymously to the inner-city church.  On Christmas Eve, I placed the envelope on the tree, the note inside telling Mike what I had done and that this was his gift from me.  His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year and in the succeeding years.  For each Christmas, I followed the tradition—one year sending a group of mentally handicapped youngsters to a hockey game, another year a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground the week before Christmas, and on and on.

The envelope became the highlight of our Christmas.  It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning and our children, ignoring their new toys, would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents.

As the children grew, the toys gave way to more practical presents but the envelope never lost its allure.  The story doesn’t end there.

You see we lost Mike last year due to dreaded cancer.  When Christmas rolled around, I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely got the tree up.  But Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree, and in the morning, it was joined by three more.

Each of our children, unbeknownst to the others, had placed an envelope on the tree for their dad.  The tradition has grown and someday will expand even further with our grandchildren standing to take down the envelope.

 Mike’s spirit, like the Christmas spirit will always be with us.


I decided to make a binder to put all the letters in.  It is so fun to re-read the letters every year and remember all of the kind acts of service performed by those we love!

Sometimes the letters include pictures of what the family did.  This particular page looks like a Halloween post, but it is the kids dressing up in disguises so they will not get caught in delivering some gifts. How fun is that and I love that the kids are learning to serve others!

Do any of you have fun traditions that you do at Christmas time?  It is such a wonderful time of the year and I love the Spirit of Christmas and wish that I could just “can” it and keep it with me all year long!

What are some of the fun ways that you serve at this time of the year?  Do any of you have traditions that you would like to share, I would love to hear from you?

Have a great weekend everyone!  Love Ya!

18 thoughts on “Secret Service Saturday-White Envelope

  1. I am sitting here, having just pinned this post, tears streaming down my face. This is one of THE best posts I’ve ever read. Thank you so much for sharing it. It is an inspiration.

  2. Hi Rita. That is one of the sweetest Christmas stories I have heard, and I too am in tears. My husband sounds a lot like yours – bah, humbug to the hustle bustle and commercial Christmas. I may have to try out your idea, and I wish I had thought of it earlier! Thank you for sharing your story.

  3. Rita,
    I love this idea! We have an ornament exchange and I have been stressing about what to do. I would love to make this a tradition in our home as well as those close to us. What a way to bring Christ back into our Christmas season. Thanks

  4. This is the most precious post I have read. What a wonderful present. Your spirit of love shines through every word. I cannot think of a better tradition to begin and share for generations. Thank you.

    1. Thank you. It is our most favorite tradition and it is what gets me excited about the hustle and bustle of the holiday season!

  5. This is a beautiful story and tradition to carry on with our families. Thank you so much for sharing it. I hope others continue to share the wonderful stories of how they shared this gift.
    Glenda Rice

  6. You have so inspired me. I am a teacher and always try to get my kids into pay it forward Friday. I just wanted you to know that I’m on my way out Christmas Eve to get one last gift card for a students family. His family is struggling with money and I know his families woes have come full circle to the student. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    1. Sarah, thank you so much for your sweet comment. I love that you are paying it forward and that you are trying to teach the children in your class to do that also! You must be an amazing teacher! Thank goodness for wonderful teacher that teach our kids and grandkids! I hope that you have a wonderful Christmas holiday and that you will be blessed in all that you do for others!
      Merry Christmas!

  7. Hi Rita, this is so amazing, I lost my husband to cancer also and every year I try to do something special for my daughters and grandchildren to keep his memory alive. He was a person that loved doing for others and from no on I will do something like this so that I can pass it on to my family. This is the reason for the season. Thank you so much for sharing.

    1. Charlotte, I am so sorry for your loss. I admire that you are doing things to keep your husband’s memory alive. Our family has thoroughly enjoyed this service and my husband and I love that the kids all get involved! Hope that your family loves this as much as we do. I wish you well. Rita

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