“We commercialize everything. Look at Christmas. Christmas is Jesus’ birthday. Now I don’t know Jesus, but from what I’ve read Jesus was the least materialistic person to ever roam the earth. And we turned his birthday into the most materialistic day of the year. Matter of fact, we have the Jesus Birthday season; it’s a whole season of materialism.” – Chris Rock on SNL
What is your favorite holiday memory? Mine is dancing with my grandparents around the tree. My family had just moved to the States from Spain. We didn’t have much money. We didn’t even think we could afford a tree, but at the last minute, on Christmas Eve, we decided to splurge and got the last scraggly tree on the lot at a discount. We didn’t have decorations, so we made red ribbon bows and strung garlands of popcorn. It was the most beautiful tree we’d ever had. There wasn’t much in the way of gifts. Do I remember what my present was? No. But I will always remember that happy Christmas, for we had created it together.
Many of us overextend our budgets during the holiday season, adding unnecessary stress to our lives. What does it teach our children? While I believe in the magic of the season, when it comes to toys and other gadgets, less is more.
Children who have too many toys are often less grateful and more selfish. While children who have less toys tend to spend more time outdoors, are more creative (remember those forts you used to build?), have longer attention spans, and are more resourceful.
If you’d like to step off of the fa-la-la merry-go-round but aren’t quite sure how, read on for six tips to help you consciously create a holiday season filled with more cheer and less stress.
Six Tips to Stop the Xmas Insanity
- Buy one gift for every person in your family, including your kids. Make it special and meaningful. Ask grandparents and family members to do the same for your children.
- Set a good financial example for your kids. Holiday gift giving is a wonderful opportunity to teach your children about budgeting and how to handle money. A good way to go about it is to create your family budget for a specific number of gifts. Gifts should have a price ceiling. Include your children in the gift budget discussions. Don’t forget to include a few “treat” dollars to reward yourselves with a hot cocoa together while you are out.
- Be grateful. At a time of year when most children think they are entitled to badger their parents with the gimme’s, gratitude is a great way to counteract materialism and selfishness. Teach your kids to say “thank you” for every gift they receive – even the three-sizes-too-small sweater from Great Aunt Matilda! Set aside some time to talk with your kids about all of the positive things that have happened in your family over the past year. You may be surprised by what they remember and value!
- Be generous. For those who want to give to others but have not found the right charity, choose to give to a family you know. Enlist the help of your children, so they see the immediate impact and benefit of helping someone other than themselves. It can be as simple as gifting toys, making them a special dinner, or creating a Christmas decoration for their home.
- Focus on family traditions (or start a new one). Adults often forget how much kids value and look forward to family traditions. That’s why, in the midst of the hustle and bustle, it can come as a surprise to hear your child say, “But, Mom, you’re forgetting to read The Night Before Christmas! We always do that!”
One of my family traditions is to make a Treasure Card for each person in the family. In other words, what I treasure about you. It is a great way to let people know how you truly feel, what you love about them, and what you are thankful for. We then hide the cards and go on a Treasure Hunt for the best treasure of all – love expressed. Be sure your partner helps the kids write one for you too!
- Celebrate the meaning of the holidays. Whatever your beliefs, take time to honor the meaning of the season. Each Christmas, my parents would read us the Nativity story before we opened any presents. Create space to remember the holidays are not about the toys, but about the joys we give to others.
One of the most beautiful moments I have seen recently is this 10-year-old boy from Portugal. His joy and appreciation for a single present is sure to bring tears to your eyes, as it did me. Seeing this video inspired me to keep it simple this year.
Wishing you and your family love, laughter and gratitude for all things big and small!