Inside: Ideas to make your holiday season special without emphasizing Christmas presents
I’ve never been more embarrassed in my life than on that day.
Well, maybe “in my life” is a bit of a stretch. But seriously… it was rough.
We were celebrating Christmas with extended family. Picture a warm glow, gifts being passed around, yummy smells coming from the kitchen. Everyone was having a pretty good time.
Then the unwrapping began. Or should I call it “the frenzy…” Because before my very eyes, it was as if my children became rabid beasts. Paper was flying. Gifts were being tossed to the side as quickly as they were open. Which you may be saying is pretty “normal” kid stuff. But that wasn’t the worst part.
The worst part came when the unwrapping ended and the whining started. In the eyes of my children, the gifts that had been thoughtful chosen and purchased for them weren’t enough. They wanted more. The rush of getting new “things” had ended in a crash, and with that Christmas was over.
This time of year has a way of bringing out this sort of insatiable thirst.
Like I mentioned in another post, I don’t want my kids to have this mentality toward gifts and Christmas. I decided on the drive home that night: something had to change. And this year, it will.
Am I Saying No to Presents?
So are we ditching gift-giving all together this Christmas?
No! Are you kidding?
Now, I know there are plenty of families who do this, and I’m not saying they’re wrong for it. I actually kind of admire them for it. But for our family, it just wouldn’t feel right.
I’m a firm believer in moderation. As someone who tries to “go all out” in almost everything she does and then learns her lesson by crashing and burning (vegan lifestyle, MLM companies, ridiculous exercise regimens… the list could go on), I know better than to just completely cut the gift-giving aspect of Christmas out of my family’s life.
Instead, we’re scaling back on the number of gifts but making the season more rich and fulfilling in other ways.
So what do you do?
What are these other ways, you ask?
Right now, you probably have seen that experience gifts are becoming the answer for more and more families. That’s not what I’m going to talk about today, FYI. But it is a fun idea. Basically, instead of giving toys and other “things,” people buy “experiences” for their kids. Examples: zoo trips, annual passes to theme parks and other fun locations, mini-vacations, etc. It’s still a gift but not one that causes clutter and feeds materialism in our kids.
But if you’re on a tight budget, you can probably see the problem here. Giving experiences can get extremely expensive. And if you’re wanting to minimize the number of gifts you buy this year because of financial reasons, some of those experiences aren’t really an option.
So what do you do?
Sure, I can remember some of my favorite Christmas presents that I got as a kid. But what I remember more? The way the season made me feel.
Like any parents, my mom and dad weren’t perfect by any means. But I can honestly say that my childhood memories are mostly full of very warm experiences and knowing I was loved. The Christmas season seemed to magnify that.
The biggest thing we ever did at Christmas time was take a family trip to Disney World when I was a teenager. But that’s not my favorite Christmas memory. As crazy as it may seem, I preferred all the other Christmases we spent at home. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Disney. But it din’t feel like Christmas because my favorite memories are in the little things.
The fires my dad would build in the fireplace. The way we would decorate the tree. Singing Christmas songs with my mom. Baking cookies with my grandma. Being in the Christmas pageant at church. Spending time with family and celebrating the gift of Jesus. Those are the memories I love the most.
It’s all in the delivery
You know why my kids acted like they did on that fateful day? Because we (without even realizing it) placed way too much emphasis on gifts and their importance. We got the most excited talking about gifts and Santa with them. As parents, we led them to a place where the pinnacle of the season was found wrapped on the tree. And once those things were opened, the joy was gone.
- “Oh my goodness, I wonder what Santa got you!”
- “Tomorrow is Christmas morning! Can you believe it?? Almost time to open gifts!”
- “Are you excited to open your presents?”
- “Did you get lots of good stuff at your dad’s house?”
- “You got so many new toys!”
If any of that sounds familiar and your kids become like wild animals during gift-opening too, you may be in the same position we were.
It’s all in the way we explain what’s happening to our kids. Are we getting more excited for them to open things we bought? Or excited about the entire season and how we can spend time with them during it?As parents, are we emphasizing the blessing of spending time together during the Christmas season? Or the rush from getting 'things'?Click To Tweet
18 Non-Gift (Inexpensive) Christmas Traditions
So what are some of these simple memory-building traditions? Here’s a list of ideas, but feel free to use your own. It’s all about how YOUR family likes to spend time together and what you want their childhood Christmas memories to look like.
- Pick a day that signals the beginning of the Christmas season for your family. Decorate the tree & house while listening to Christmas music.
- If you’re brave and are prepared to take care of it, chop down your own family Christmas tree every year. (Full disclosure: I’m not brave enough…)
- Bake cookies and other sweets all month long. Keep some at home, but bless other people by giving some away to family, friends, neighbors, teachers, policeman, etc.
- Once a week have family movie night. Pick a Christmas movie, and snuggle up with blankets, hot cocoa, and simple holiday-themed snacks.
- Get 25 Christmas-themed books from the library or discount stores, and read one for every night of December until Christmas night.
- Drive around looking at Christmas lights (parks, businesses, and houses). If there aren’t many in your area, plan a special day trip to a near-by city or town that does have them.
- Participate in church-sponsored Christmas events.
- Do an advent countdown.
- Write sweet cards to pass out at nursing homes and hospitals.
- Attend the annual Christmas parade.
- If you have a local rink, go ice skating.
- Make one special keepsake each year like ornaments, wreaths, etc. It doesn’t have to be anything crazy elaborate. Just keep it simple and focus more on the time together than on everything turning out right.
- See the Nutcracker Ballet or other live Christmas shows.
- Have a family gingerbread house contest.
- Open new jammies on Christmas Eve night. Then snuggle up to read The Night Before Christmas.
- On Christmas morning, read Jesus’s birth story from the Bible.
- Have Christmas dinner at your house (whether for extended family or just you, your spouse, and kids). Let the kids help make it, giving them age-appropriate tasks.
- Bake a birthday cake for Jesus and share it after Christmas dinner. Then have family worship time.
What traditions does your family keep during the Christmas season?
Until next time,
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