EXCLUSIVE Mother who STOPPED buying Christmas gifts for her two children when they were just eight and ten insists decision made their holiday better than ever – and helped them to overcome devastating family tragedy
- Maya Manseau, 61, from Maine, stopped giving her kids presents back in 2001
- Instead, for each Christmas, the family has donated to various charities
- Her daughters were always ‘on board’ with the generous-minded approach
A mom who stopped buying her kids Christmas presents when they were eight and 10 after realizing the family already had enough says she doesn’t regret it.
Maya Manseau, 61, and her family decided to stop buying each other gifts and instead donate $1,000 to charity every Christmas.
She says her children – Lindsay and Megan – fully supported the decision and were never resentful.
Since kicking off the tradition in 2001, the family has donated $1,000 a year to a range of different charities.
Maya Manseau, 61, of Maine, and her family stopped buying Christmas presents for each other in 2001 – and instead have donated about $1,000 each year to different charities
The tradition started after Maya fell ill just before Christmas of 2000 and wasn’t able to get her family presents on time for the holidays. Maya is pictured with her younger daughter, Megan
Instead of opening a pile of presents on the big day, they eat and celebrate with family.
Maya, a business owner from Maine, said: ‘The first year we did it was just after the 9/11 terror attacks.
‘I sat my two daughters down and did the normal thing of asking what they wanted to do for Christmas.
‘The girls were like, “Mom, we have so much,” and we started talking about how we could help others.
‘We decided to donate $1,000 to the 9/11 fund instead of giving each other presents.
‘The following year we found a charity where you “adopt a family” and buy them a list of presents that they have asked for. The girls were totally on board with that,’ she continued.
‘When we got the list we saw that the dad had written that all he wanted was socks and mittens and the girls were mind blown.
‘It was a really great learning lesson for the girls – to teach them about the basic necessities and giving.
For the first Christmas without presents – which was just months after the September 11 terrorist attacks – the family chose to donate $1,000 to a 9/11 charity
Maya lost her oldest daughter, Lindsay (pictured), to leukemia in 2012
‘We loved going around and picking out the presents for the children and the parents.’
Maya’s family experienced a difficult Christmas in 2000 due to a sudden illness, and she says it gave them a new perspective on the holiday.
She was struck down with a flesh-eating virus at the beginning of December after cutting her foot while cleaning out an old pool in Florida.
She spent two weeks in hospital and was put on antibiotics.
She recalled of the difficult incident: ‘They managed to fly me back up to Maine from Florida.
‘But I hadn’t done much Christmas shopping and I was worried that the girls would be upset.
‘When I told them, my eldest, who was 10 at the time, said, “Mom, you’re here and you’re OK and that’s all I wanted for Christmas.”‘
Maya and her ex-partner still did stockings for the girls and padded them out – calling them ‘elaborate stockings’ – so the children didn’t wake up with nothing on the day.
‘They would be filled with a few items of clothes, books, puzzles and stationary equipment and maybe one more expensive gift,’ she said.
After losing Lindsay, Maya says her grief ‘fueled my desire to continue helping all year round’ – especially given on how many people showed up for her and her family
Tragedy struck the family in 2012 when Maya lost her eldest daughter, Lindsay, after she was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 23.
She says it has made the Christmas holidays much harder, but continuing to give to others has helped to cope.
‘It fueled my desire to continue helping all year round, I had lots of people step up to help me in a big way, and I’m always looking to return that support,’ Maya said.
‘We always try and help as many people as we can at Christmas, and if we find out someone will be spending Christmas alone, we will want them to join us.’
Maya’s favorite part of Christmas is cooking together as a family.
‘My mother-in-law taught home economics in middle school and she used to love to bake and cook,’ she said.
‘As soon as my kids were old enough to stand on a chair with a little apron on, they cooked with her.’
Christmas hasn’t been the same for the family since Lindsay’s tragic death.
But this year Maya is publishing a book called Living Intentionally After Loss to help teach others how to deal with grief.
She told Authority Magazine of moving past the loss: ‘As I began to heal, I began to teach the others the things that I had learned.’
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