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Friday, November 20, 2015

10 Easy Tips for Having a Simpler (but just as fun!) Christmas

10 Easy Tips for having a Simpler (but just as fun!) Christmas

10 Easy Tips for Having a Simpler (but just as fun!) Christmas

Christmas has become more and more commercialized over the years.  From controversy over a red cup to a day solely devoted to the mass purchasing of gifts while keeping retail workers away from their families on Thanksgiving, we are more and more missing the reason for the season.  It really hit home for me when I noticed on Facebook that my atheist friends were celebrating the “day of gifting” right along side of the Christians.  Why?  “Because it’s not about Christ anymore,” they would reply.


My kids are very young, so I am trying to really instill on them the virtue of the simpler life.  But Christmas is hard for me, because I want to give them EVERY cool thing they want.  I love to shop for them, and giving them every little thing their hearts desire can have so much appeal.  On the other hand, I already know that they have plenty.  Whenever the urge to buy them yet another toy strikes me, I try to remember back to great memories I have of my childhood, and you know what?  Very few of them involved toys.  In fact, almost none.  Almost every wonderful lasting memory I had of my childhood involved people, not things.  And the toys I do remember?  The fort my dad made us with some plywood and an old camper shell for a roof.  The Narnia movies that I had to leave at Grandma's house because I could only watch them when we were together.  The old box of costume jewelry I received from my Grandpa the year my Grandma went to be with the Lord.

So how do we go about creating those lasting memories for our children, without the material things?  Well, it's not as hard as you think.  Most of the existing traditions have roots in something more meaningful, and it's our job as parents to teach our kids the meaning behind things.  These lessons can be so much fun and make the holiday season really special for your kids.

You could start with the commercialized character of Santa Claus, which has true origins in faith and generosity, not a man with a huge sack of toys for good little children.  As your children become older and begin to lose that magical belief in Santa, tell them the true story of the real Patron Saint.  While they are still little, maybe you could tell them that story of how he got his saint hood and play it as, "how he got the job as Santa."

And I think a nativity scene is an important fixture in every Christian home.  We have this one, so the kids can play with it while they learn the story of how Christ was born.  “I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”  Luke 2:10&11

That’s the true meaning of Christmas.  In light of that, I’d like to share a few tips I’ve collected from articles, the internet, and my own family to help you have an un-commercialized celebration of our Lord and Savior’s birth.

  1. Create a tradition.  Go to (or watch at home) a Christmas movie, play a board game, make a special batch of cookies for Santa, or sing karaoke to some Christmas carols.  “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” is one of our favorites, and we always make these cookies for Santa.  My single-parent family was not well-off growing up, but we never really knew it because Dad always made things special, including personalized pancakes on Christmas morning.  He was not going to be a short-order cook, there was no being picky in my family.  We all ate exactly what we were given!  But every Christmas, I got blueberry pancakes, and my brothers got chocolate chip or M&M or whatever other kind of pancake they desired.  It’s a tradition close to my heart that I’ve continued for my own kids.
  2. Have some electronic-free time.  I know it’s a terrible day to turn off your phone, because many friends and family will want to talk to you on the most wonderful day of the year.  But leave the TV off, put the iPads away, and only use the phone to make or receive phone calls.  Spend quality time with your family, not your gadgets.
  3. Make gifts instead of buying them.  My little boy asked Santa for the Disney Captain Jake and the Never Land Pirates Mighty Colossus from Santa for Christmas, but his favorite character, “Sinker”, the villain’s sidekick, does not come with it.  I’m not particularly crafty, but I pulled out some felt and thread and printed out, traced, cut, sewed, and stuffed a tiny felt squid for him.  He did find it in my purse early, but he calls it his “best friend” and sleeps with it, and it cost me nothing but a couple days of sewing on my lunch break.
  4. Have coffee with a friend you haven’t seen in a while.  Christmas is a time for family and friends, so Facebook that friend that you haven’t seen in a year but lives in the same city as you and take them to Starbucks for BOGO latte’s.  Or you could invite a friend over and make your own!
  5. Regift!  That’s right, I said it.  Some of my favorite things are special hand-me-downs from family members.  My grandma’s costume jewelry, my Grandpa’s old Winchester, a pillow that my aunt embroidered.  Gifts do not have to be new, they just have to be heartfelt to be special to the receiver.
  6. Give and ask for non-toy gifts.  My kids were the first grandchildren on both sides, and are blessed to have a very generous family.  But birthdays and Christmas have become a little crazy for us, because we already have more things than they can ever play with.  I was regularly returning items they already have and donating/selling things we had that they hadn’t played with in a while.  Now, I politely hand out Christmas lists to family members who usually ask for them anyway, and include non-toy items like a new bed set, tickets to the zoo or the McWane Center, and craft supplies.
  7. Break out the fine china.  Ours is just an "everyday" set we received as a wedding present, but since we eat off of paper plates most of the time, the kids know it’s pretty special when Mom pulls out real plates for Christmas morning pancakes.  You can dress up your everyday set with some red cloth napkins or a fun DIY centerpiece.
  8. Simplify your decorations.  We live in the woods so we don’t put lights outside, but inside I do love to put up a big tree.  We don’t put a tree in every room, we don’t cover the house in tinsel.  We pull out the homemade ornaments the kids have made over the years and the ones we’ve received as gifts, and fill the rest of the tree with painted pinecones we found in the woods.  We put up a nativity set on the mantel to remind us of the reason for the season, and a wreath my mother-in-law made me, and that's about it!
  9. Donate your time.  Work at a local food bank or soup kitchen, help arrange a group donation at work for Toys for Tots, and include your kids.  They learn generosity from seeing you be generous, not by you telling them to be!
  10. Keep your own consumerism at bay.  I know, I know, it feels great to give your children all those things they’ve asked for.  But after about 10 gifts, most of the time they are eyeing a particular toy they want to play with anyway, and their attention and gratefulness wanes. Here are 2 options I’ve seen to keep gift-giving really special.   
    • “Something they want, something they need, something they wear, something they read.”  4 useful gifts.  If this works for you, do it!  I have trouble with this because my children are young, and if it’s something they truly “need,” it usually cannot wait a couple months.  Those little toes just won’t squeeze into too-small shoes for another month while the new ones sit under the tree.  The same applies to “something they wear,” because cold weather clothes come out much earlier than December, even here in the Deep South.  And of course, we’ve done a couple birthdays where we asked for books instead of cards, so now we have plenty of books.  
    • “3 gifts because Baby Jesus got 3 gifts.”  I like this because it helps them remember the true meaning of Christmas, and because the 3 things can be anything that works for your family.  They also get a 4th gift from Santa.  We try to keep this gift $20-$40, after we saw this very insightful Facebook post about less fortunate children.   We shop local or handmade when we can, because supporting small business helps everyone.  I try to make at least one of their gifts because I know that once they get older, they will value those more.  I will post again soon with a list of great DIY gifts.
Those are just a few ways to make your Christmas more simple, but more special too!  I'd love to hear your ideas to keep Christmas less commercial and more meaningful.  Please post them in the comments below!

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