If you have recently committed to a simpler holiday season, and have children who are used to piles of presents under the tree, overstuffed stockings and more food than could ever be eaten in one day, simplifying Christmas may come as a bit of a challenge. If you’re lucky enough that your children are under 5 or 6 years old, you probably won’t have much trouble. If they’re older, use these three ideas to help replace their expectations learned from past holidays with enjoyable activities that help bring the season into focus on people, not things.
Start new traditions that focus on spending time with each other, rather than making purchases. You can play games and have hot chocolate or cider, go to a Christmas tree farm to select your tree and decorate together, choose a charity or service project to do together, sing Christmas carols at a nursing home, share handmade gifts on Christmas Eve instead of store bought presents. You can have a family bake day where you choose to make cookies, bread, candied nuts and other simple holiday treats, wrap them up and either give them to neighbors in person, or knock and run. Finish the evening with hot chocolate and a plate of goodies for your own family.
Give service to those in need. There are an abundant number of opportunities readily available during the holiday season for giving to those in need. If your children are old enough, have a family discussion on the possibility of a ‘one for one’ gift policy. For each gift a person purchases for a family or friend, they purchase another gift of equal value for those less fortunate. You can also work at soup kitchens, visit those who are lonely or donate dinners and coats to various charities. If your children are younger, have them select a gift to wrap and give to a charity that helps children.
Purge before presents. If your children are having a difficult time with the idea of receiving fewer gifts this year, ask them to fill up a donation box with items they are willing to part with, and perhaps you can match the number of items they remove with the number of gifts they will receive, within reason. As you discuss with them the reasons for simplifying the holiday, be sure they understand that giving gifts is still part of the holiday tradition, but they should be gifts that they will truly use and appreciate. When they stop and consider what they really would like, their ‘list’ will most likely become shorter.
While these ideas may not completely cure the ‘Christmas Blues’ children may feel when they first find out you want to simplify the holidays, over time, as you continue to put people first and not things, they will come to understand the value of a simpler season and even start to appreciate the deeper meaning that you are teaching by your example.