A Less-is-more Christmas
By Sandi Haustein
You may be one of those parents who looks forward to the holiday season all year long. You love the festive parties, taking your kids’ picture on Santa’s lap, and imagining his face when he opens that perfect gift on Christmas morning. But, if you find yourself stressing out because you’ve exhausted all your Elf on the Shelf scenarios and maxed out your credit cards on buying gifts, you might be making Christmas more complicated than it has to be.
Marianne Miller, author of The Gift of Enough, says, “So many parents feel a weight to create a magical, over-the-top Christmas for their kids. What they don’t realize is that what makes the season memorable is its beautiful simplicity.” What if you gave up the hectic pace and were able to rediscover a more meaningful holiday season? Here are four ways to help you and your family find simple joy this Christmas.
Say “no” to busy-ness and “yes” to making simple memories
Between your neighbor’s cookie exchange, your friend’s Ugly Christmas Sweater party, and all of the Santa photo ops around town, it’s easy to feel pressure to fit in too many holiday activities. Miller recommends deciding ahead of time how many holiday events you will attend. Then, you can decline other invitations and focus on making simple memories as a family.
Read Christmas books to your kids in front of the fire. Light a candle in your Advent wreath or decorate cookies for Santa. Pour hot chocolate into thermoses, put on your pajamas, and drive around looking at lights. Years down the road, these memories will be what your children will remember.
Set limits on presents
Growing up, Amy Gilmore and her brother competed to see who would get the most Christmas presents each year. Now a mom of two, Gilmore wants her kids to learn to appreciate the thought behind each gift. To do this, she uses a simple gift-giving rule at her house; each child gets “something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read.”
Even when you limit the number of presents under the tree, Miller says that because kids don’t open presents every other day of the year, Christmas will still feel like abundance to them. And Gilmore agrees. “I want my kids to learn to appreciate the thought behind each gift,” she says.
Instead of buying the latest must-have toys that your kids might forget about in a week, why not give experiences that will build memories instead? Buy a zoo pass or a family membership to the local science museum. Give your child the karate lessons he’s been wanting. Buy the family a board game that everyone can enjoy all year long. These types of presents keep on giving long after the chaos of Christmas morning.
Find ways to serve others
Every Christmas Eve, Jenna Bunner, mom of three, and her husband take their children to participate in a community-wide holiday event for families in need. With live music playing, everyone shares in a meal, and guests have the opportunity to take family pictures, get haircuts, and shop for clothes and Christmas gifts in a free store.
You may not have the time or resources to participate in a big event, but you can still teach your children about the joy of sharing with others. Give your child some money to put in the Salvation Army bell-ringer’s bucket on your way into the grocery store. Go shopping together for a local winter coat drive. Make a batch of Christmas cookies and deliver them to your local fire or police department to thank them for their service.
This holiday season, if you want something different than fitting in every party and running store to store buying gifts you can’t afford, try a less-is-more approach. After all, Christmas isn’t about the beautiful pile of wrapped presents under the tree or fitting in every last holiday event. It’s about family traditions, the joy of giving, and faith. May you and your family discover a simpler, more meaningful Christmas this year.
Sandi Haustein, a mom of four, blogs at www.TheWelcomingTable.com. Her favorite holiday tradition is making cut-out Christmas cookies with her kids.