I love the holiday season! The lights and decorations, the beautiful Christmas cards, loads of desserts, giving the perfect gifts to loved ones, experiencing pure wonder and joy through my children’s eyes. As they get older, though, my hope is that I can help them keep the true spirit and meaning of Christmas in the forefront of their thoughts through the season.
Here are a few ways we keep the Christmas spirit alive
No, not the movie. The Bible story. We have multiple books that tell the story of Jesus’ birth. We read them multiple times in December, as well as periodically throughout the year. My two year old son (T) doesn’t grasp it yet, but my four year old (A) asks plenty of questions. We discuss why an angel visited Mary and Joseph, why they had to travel to Bethlehem, what the star meant, why King Herod was mean, etc. Yes, she’s this curious about everything, and all of our story times are filled with a multitude questions. I love that about her.
The beautiful nativity scene my husband’s grandma gave us is set up in the living room. This sparks daily games of “Who’s that?” and “What’s he doing?” with my son. My daughter has started fielding these questions on occasion. My heart swells knowing that she is learning and retaining this information.
Giving to others
I want my kids to find joy in giving to others. To realize that giving feels as good as, if not better than, receiving. We do this in a few ways.
Each year, I participate in the toy drive at my work. I pick a tag and bring it home to show the kids. We go to the store, usually the following weekend, and they are in charge of choosing the gift. Since the recipients have been much older than my kids (10-13), it has been difficult for them to gage age-appropriate gifts. So I typically narrow it down to a handful of choices for them. We also talk about how some kids do not have very many toys and that not every family has the money to buy Christmas presents.
Our Elf on the Shelf, Buddy, always has a request at some point during his stay that the kids sort through their toys. They find toys they no longer play with or can do without so they can be given to other kids. We talk about toys they loved at one time but may no longer have time for. They have to justify whether they really use a toy or if they’re just nervous to let go. Then we discuss how they are helping others feel the happiness they felt.
New this year, the kids have asked to give each other gifts. When my daughter asked me if she could give her brother a gift (and then he parroted the same sentiment), my heart melted into a pile of goo. Luckily, I had a couple extra books stashed away for future gifts. I let each go into my bedroom with me and help wrap their sibling’s present. A was so excited after wrapping T’s gift, she wanted to wake him up to show him. I eventually convinced her to accept my offer to allow them to exchange gifts on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas Day. This is when my sisters and I exchanged gifts, and I look forward to continuing this tradition with my kids.
Cut back on the gifts
I was so excited for A’s first Christmas! I bought all kinds of toys, clothes, and books. Everything was wrapped nicely with gift tags. Except for the bigger toys, which I, of course, assembled ahead of time. She was seven months old. I could’ve given her an Amazon box, it would have been a great day. The story was similar a year later. She was so overwhelmed between presents from us, Santa, grandparents, aunts/uncles, school, and other random people in our lives. By the end of the day, she could hardly tell you what she received, much less what she was excited about. It was then that I decided things had to change.
This will be the third year Santa will deliver 4 gifts for each child: something to wear, something to read, something they want, and something they need. I’m sure you’ve seen this floating around online and social media. Although, I think many people do this as the gifts from parents rather than from Santa. Here’s my take on it. I can explain how some families have money to buy expensive gifts or choose to do so while others don’t. What I can’t explain is why Santa gives so much to some and so little to others. The thought of this conversation breaks my heart. I wish more would consider this situation.
Not only does Santa bring less, but they also receive less from me and my husband. I would rather buy a handful of gifts I know they will love and appreciate than a heaping pile of every must have toy just to keep up with their friends. They still receive more than enough, and they never complain.
Earlier this month, A asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I told her, “I just want to enjoy time as a family.” She informed me that’s not a present. My response? It’s better than any present I could get. We had a brief conversation about gifts you don’t see, and she decided that spending time together was something she wanted, too.
Last, but certainly not least, we practice thanksgiving. We talk about our blessings and give thanks to God. We discuss highlights of our day, as well as things we would have liked to do better. This is no different when it comes to Christmas, giving thanks for those that gave to us. And beyond giving thanks to God, they also express their gratitude directly to the gift givers.
I hope that you and your family have a blessed Christmas, filled with joy and gratitude. Keep in mind the reason for the season and keep that spirit alive for both yourself and your children. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!