I love to shop. I really do. I love to dress up in something new. I love dressing my kids and my husband. I love buying things for myself and others, but I really despise Christmas shopping.
It's too much. Too much buying, too much opening, too much eating, too much singing, too much wrapping. It's all too much. Maybe I have too big of a family (I am from a large extended family and I have a giant group of friends as well). I've painfully pared my list down over the years. But it's still too much. I still love Christmas, and I don't want to throw out the whole holiday. Part of enjoying the season is the giving and receiving of gifts. But how can we do this without giving in to the massive consumerism that is the US shopping industry from October-December? How do I cut down on the gifts without seeming like a scrooge?
1. Encourage experiences, not stuff. My kids have too many toys. So what should people get us for Christmas? Experiences. Even with only three kids, I find it very expensive to encourage them to try all the hobbies and activities that I would like them to do. So I've encouraged my family to give them experiences for Christmas. Take them to a concert, a play, or ice skating. It's a fun experience for all of them together, and my gift is a quiet afternoon without the kids. If you have family with more money than time to spend, encourage them to give you a family gift of a zoo or aquarium membership, or pay for 3 months of piano or karate lessons. Those things add up!
2. Limit your own gift giving to the kids. Kumar and I believe in 3 gifts for each kid. It was good enough for baby Jesus (Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh), and its good enough for Jaelin, Eli and Wilo. It's hard to stick to just 3 gifts; and we do stick in some candy and other little goodies in their stockings. I really wanted to pare down this year to 1 gift, but I've already broken that new rule. So for Christmas, the Dixits kids will only get 3 gifts from us (one of which is always pajamas for Christmas Eve).
3. Get your kids get involved in giving. When Jaelin started kindergarten, she came home and told us that one of her friends couldn't afford a Christmas tree this year. We were sad but thrilled. (One of the reasons we sent her to public school, is to make sure that she was exposed to kids of all economic backgrounds). We emailed the teacher and donated a tree and ornaments to the family that year. We didn't want to embarrass the kid or make a big deal about it, so we kept it on the down low, but our kids need to know that they are lucky. Not everyone who wants to celebrate the holiday, has the means to do so. Adopt a family from church, school or a local shelter. Encourage your kids to brainstorm what others may want for Christmas. If you get your kids focused on giving, they will actually enjoy the giving part of Christmas.
4. Practice getting. Kids don't naturally say "please" and "thank you", especially when they receive unusual gifts such as underwear or socks. This is a learned skill. It is important that you teach your kids how to be grateful and polite in all circumstances. A game that we've played before is the "Thank You Game." I gave Jaelin a gift bag or pillow case and she ran throughout the house looking for a "present" for Eli. While she was gone, I explained to Eli that no matter what it was, we had to find a polite and kind way to say Thank you to her, NO MATTER WHAT the gift was. And he couldn't just say "Thanks" He had to come up with a reason why he was grateful for the gift.
"Thank you Jaelin for the socks, they'll keep my toes warm"
"Thank you Eli for the Q-tips, They will keep my ears clean"
"Thank you Jaelin for this used napkin. I'll be able to fill up my recycling bin"
As you can see, it can get quite silly. But I also think it's teaching the art of saying "Thank you." That's gonna come in handy with some of our relatives ;)
5. Plan fun activities for the month of December. Celebrate the whole season by honoring traditions or starting your own traditions. Take the girls to see the nutcracker ballet. Go to the symphony of lights or drive around the neighborhood looking for homemade Christmas lights. Bake and decorate cookies. Make presents for your teachers/neighbors/friends. Host a favorite things party. The holiday season is great time to do some random acts of kindness. When my kids look back at Christmas, I want them to have lots of memories, not just of opening gifts on Christmas morning.
6. Don't forget that Jesus is the reason for the season. The whole reason that Christians celebrate Christmas is because it gives us a chance to remember Christ's birth. Be purposeful in teaching your children this, because the commercials on TV tell them something else. Make it a point to read the Christmas story, watch the Christmas story, act the Christmas story and remember the Christmas story throughout the month.
With the invention of the internet (Thank you Al Gore!), I'm almost done my Christmas shopping before December 1st. I'm awesome, cause I did most of it my pajamas. Now I can focus on the fun part of Christmas. YAY!!! Maybe you have more ideas on how to really celebrate this month? Please share!!!