I realize that every family has their own traditions and ways to celebrate this season. The signs of Christmas are everywhere as it is less than two days away.
Lately I’ve been pondering this and thinking about how we celebrate Christmas as a family. Please don’t take this post as a personal assault or think I’m getting all judgmental on you. Really, I’m not. Try not to judge me and I won’t judge you, okay?? However, I am really fed up with how commercialized Christmas has gotten and, to be completely transparent, fed up with parents who have bought into this and spoon-feed their children the commercialized version of Christmas.
So, before I go on a huge long rant about Santa, Elf on a Shelf, and people going in to debt to buy their kids a bunch of junk they don’t even need, I’ll just share what we personally do–and don’t do.
What We Do:
-Each child gets around 3 gifts, not a whole pile. Usually I give them each one main thing they really want, followed by two small items they need or something just for fun. (Just as an example, we are giving Andrew a Plasma Ball that he had been asking for, along with an origami book and one other small item.) They also each have a stocking with a couple of little items, usually something like stickers, a new toothbrush, or candy.
-On Christmas Eve, we attend our church Christmas Eve service. It is typically about an hour long and not late at night. At the service there is usually Bible readings, special music, and we also have communion together. After coming home, the children get to choose one thing out of their stocking to open.
-Christmas morning we typically have a nice hot breakfast before opening any gifts. One or two kids will help Daddy cook for everyone. Our kids are always early risers, so they don’t really get up earlier than usual.
-Before opening gifts, I like to have someone read out loud about the birth of Jesus from the Bible.
-When opening presents, I sort them into piles. Each kid gets to open one gift, then the next one will open one, and we keep going around until all are eventually opened.
-The rest of Christmas day is spent visiting our families and enjoying meals with all of them.
-This next one is new, but something I know some other families do: My children requested just the other night that we make a Birthday cake for Jesus and sing to Him. Sure, I said, so I guess we’ll be baking a cake on Christmas Eve.
What We Don’t Do:
-Make a huge deal about presents. Sure, we exchange them, but the emphasis of our celebration is not about getting stuff. It’s just not.
-Spend a lot of money. I just shake my head at how some Americans indulge their children in material things, but especially on the holidays. I shop ahead during the year, hunt for sales, and even buy yard sale or thrift store items if I think it’s something they will really like. We have never gone into debt or seriously compromised our budget due to Christmas shopping. And yes, we have 5 children and one income. It can be done.
-Santa. Or Elf on the Shelf. I grew up in a household where Santa was pretty much forbidden. No Santa anything. My parents are absolutely wonderful and I thank them for not putting an emphasis on Santa, but instead placing it on why we really do celebrate Christmas. I won’t go off on a huge tangent about Santa here, but I could. I won’t, and I’m not judging anyone who does do Santa with their kids. I’m not quite as strict as my Dad about Santa and we do have a few Santa decorations and stuff that has been given to us, but we make it clear that Santa is just a pretend character based on a generous man who lived long ago.
-Try to make things perfect. This one’s mostly for the Moms out there. It’s great to try and make things nice for your family. Things like magazine articles, blogs, and Pinterest make me want to have everything “just so” for the holidays. You know exactly what I mean–a perfectly decorated house and tree, perfectly wrapped gifts arranged just right, a perfect Christmas card to send out to friends and family, a perfect array of Christmas goodies and succulent holiday meal, and a sparkling new outfit to wear on Christmas day. Really, do you ever wonder if we just set ourselves up for disappointment when thinking this way? We are imperfect people and nothing is going to be picture perfect when we plan it that way. Sorry to burst your bubble, but it’s just not. I have gotten lots better about this over the years. Seriously, you may just laugh if you saw my kid-decorated artificial tree, not-too-decked-out halls, and non-planned Christmas outfits. But you know what? It suits me just fine and I have embraced my more relaxed approach.
That’s my “in-a-nutshell” version of how we celebrate Christmas. Basically, we try to not emphasize what this world can give us and focus on what God already gave us, over 2,000 years ago.
The one perfect gift. Jesus.
God in human form, sent here to save us from our sins. All of us imperfect people, undeserving of His grace and love. Not even able to fathom His love for us.
Emmanuel, God with us.
May you have a blessed Christmas and, in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the season, remember why we celebrate Christmas in the first place.