Rather than give his children any gifts for Christmas, Carlos Silvestre opts for giving back


Silvestre and his children (pictured center) posing with the Argentinians they helped out

No shimmering wrapping paper littered the floor. No new, gleaming toys accompanied the mess. Santa didn’t leave any half eaten cookies. Santa didn’t even leave any gifts. Not one. Spanish teacher Carlos Silvestre’s children don’t even believe in Santa– nor have they ever.

Silvestre’s household has never known these holiday tropes. In fact, Silvestre’s holidays have been void of these more commercial traditions all his life. For him, it has always been about striving for something more than just presents strewn under a pretty tree.

“Where I come from- now it has changed a lot since I was little- Christmas is not about having a tree full of gifts,” Silvestre said. “It’s more about spending time with family; those that are Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus, and it’s not so much about the gifts but more about the quality time you’re spending with family and friends.”

With these values instilled in him since childhood, the decision to completely abstain from giving his children gifts every Christmas was simple.

“Once I got married, my wife and I share the same point of view on this, so we agreed that in our home Christmas wasn’t going to be about gifts,” Silvestre said.

To Silvestre, the idea of devoting Christmas to gifts even though he and his family are fully content is aimless.

“I don’t need another shirt; I don’t need another set of underwear,” Silvestre said. “My kids don’t need another toy. They get toys, and I get clothes, all year long. What’s the point?”

Silvestre and his family instead lend their time and resources to varying charities every Christmas– a long-held custom fueled not only by religious beliefs but a general desire to do good.

“We set aside some money for giving; we give, but not to ourselves,” Silvestre said. “We give to those in need. Our idea is that the best Christmas gift ever was Jesus. He was given to us from the Father to provide us with salvation. So material gifts have nothing to do with Christmas for us’ We instead find somebody who needs something- kids that maybe have their dads in jail, moms that are single, homeless people- and we give them something. We make their season better for them; that’s what we do. Because it’s not about me.”

While refraining from giving gifts to one’s children is shocking and unorthodox to most, Silvestre’s two children adore their philanthropic Christmas practice. Silvestre foresees them carrying on the tradition as they grow up, as he has full confidence in the effectiveness of his parental guidance.

“Our kids know that they don’t gifts, and they know the reason why,” Silvestre said. “Everything we do with our kids is intentional. They know they are blessed all year long. And they know that Christmas is not about them, and they look forward to ita�� We teach them that Jesus came to give, not to be given to. So that’s what we do. So we hope that’s what they will continue with their own kids as they grow. And in their adult life even if they don’t have kids, [we hope] that they will find somebody who needs during Christmas time and show [love and generosity] to them.”

The Silvestre family’s altruism is not limited to the holiday season, however. Within their church, especially, Silvestre finds many ways to feed his generous spirit.

“Through church, we sometimes find [ways to give back], like in shelters or nursing homes’ We do stuff with our church a lot,” Silvestre said.

While the Silvestre family has volunteered their time and money to local organizations like D gag , their benevolence crosses international borders, as they have participated in charity work in the Dominican Republic and Argentina.

And though his inherent generosity has always been integrated into his family life, Silvestre couldn’t help but let his affinity for giving seep into his job here at FHC.

As a result, Silvestre began taking all of his students to Buchanan Elementary every year, providing FHC students with the opportunity to bond with less fortunate kids and even gift them with new coats for winter. Furthermore, Silvestre recently took students to the Dominican Republic for the first time and is gearing up for a second trip this summer. There, students helped build houses and playgrounds for a local community.

“When I started working here, the first thing that crossed my mind was “how do I get my students to give?a��” Silvestre said. “Then I thought of the Buchanan trips, and we’ve been doing it since then. And then I was thinking always, “I want to take my students to the Dominican Republic, but how do I do it [so that] it’s meaningful and full of experiences?a�� Well, we can go and do something for somebody.”

From Christmastime giving to international service trips, generosity has certainly always been and continues to be an innate impulse for Silvestre.

“[I do it] just because I’m blessed,” Silvestre said. “Just because I have enough, and there are people that don’t. I don’t know– it’s probably my personality. It’s just that I’m a giver; I like giving people stuff. I don’t know how to explain it. Since I was a kid, I was always somebody who like helping people and giving people stuff and sharing what I have.”