Christmas goats, part 1

(E&N Photographies, via and used under Creative Commons zero)

It's been fun collecting Leinenkugel's beer carton boxes throughout the year. A repairman recently came to the house and saw two stacks of those boxes in the corner. "Gee, lady, you sure like your beer!" he quipped as he walked by.

Oh, I forgot about those sitting out. "They're just empty boxes," I explain in as convincing a manner as I can. "The grocery store beer stocking fellow occasionally saves empty Leinenkugel boxes for me because I use them for family Christmas gifts."

He gives me one of those of-course-you-do looks but makes no comment.

"Really," I continue. "I give these boxes away. It's my family name. Well, it's not totally my family name because the spelling is slightly different, but in the way-back family history, we're related."

"Of course you are," he says placatingly, as I hold the door open and he exits. Was that an audible sigh of relief as he left, probably hoping he wouldn't have to come back?

It's true. I use Leinie's boxes to hold Christmas gifts for family members. I have several siblings, and they all have families of their own, so it's a fun time when everyone gets together for the holidays. My gifts given aren't expensive, aren't valuable, and aren't even shopped for. I pass along all the "goats" I collect throughout the year. What is a goat, you ask?

Think of the Scripture reference in which at the end of time, the sheep and the goats will be separated. The sheep, or the good persons, go on the right to inherit the kingdom because of all their Christ-like acts done during life, while the goats are sent to the left into perdition.

The term "goat gift" goes back many years when I served on a predominantly religious faculty at a Catholic elementary school. On the day we all came home to the convent when school ended for the Christmas break, we were all laden with boxes and bags of Christmas gifts bestowed by students. For those of us who taught the upper grades, we came home with a few gift items in our book bags, and it didn't take long to unwrap these gifts. The primary teachers, on the other hand, entertained the rest of us as we all sat around the dining room table watching the endless gifts being unwrapped.

Now the fun part of that was seeing how the primary sisters divided up their items. Things such as gloves, stationery, candy, pens, etc. were placed in personal "keeper" piles, but other things landed in the common "goat" pile in the center of the table. Goats were things that weren't as wanted by the recipient, such as an angel figurine, rose-glycerin hand lotion, fruitcake, bookmark, etc.

So a "goat gift" is something of without much significance. I'll tell you more about it next week in Part II.

[Nancy Linenkugel is a Sylvania Franciscan sister and chair of the department of Health Services Administration at Xavier University, Cincinnati Ohio.]


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