If you are like me, you have a slew of people to buy gifts for. I mean, in just my immediate family there are 10 people who (traditionally) need a “real” gift. And of *those,* five are children between the ages of 17 and 8, two of whom expect Santa Claus to really blow it out every year. This age range, in case you don’t have any kids in your life, or have forgotten your own childhood, is apparently the height of “wantist” behavior.
I remember sitting for hours and hours with the J.C. Penney and Sears catalogs and a legal pad taking careful notes of which items I would like to get, what color it should be if there was an option, and the price. I knew the elves were supposed to make the gifts, but…I mean, in case it was cheaper to buy it at Penney’s, I thought I would just help Santa out with the price check. And some years I was disappointed, because I didn’t get that one thing I *really* wanted, even though I DID get dozens of other gifts.
Ah, first world problems.
So, too, my kids have already been tricked out with fancy phones, iPods, gaming consoles of various kinds with various games, sporting equipment for every sport they ever expressed an ounce of interest in, puzzles, board games, and so many clothes we can’t even keep track of them all. Based on how they take care of the things they already have, I am reluctant to buy them more. Because here’s the thing. They don’t seem to care if they destroy or lose or leave at the soccer field or stain any of the above. And I’ve come to understand that they don’t care, because 1. They did not earn the thing they have broken or lost or ruined, so it has no real meaning or value, and 2. They believe the thing will be replaced almost as if with the snap of their fingers.
And who can blame them, really? It’s the world they’ve become accustomed to—a throwaway society. These kids are actually my stepkids and they don’t live with us full-time, only on the weekends. You can imagine how well it goes over when I, self-dubbed “Crazy Stepmom,” tries to get them to eat like vegetarians, go outside and play, and earn things like X-Box privileges by doing simple chores like crushing cans and taking out the trash. So…you can imagine how well this “let’s go do something instead of getting gifts” might go over.
But honestly, when I look back at it, I remember things I did with my family 1000% better than the gift I wanted but never got when I was 4 or 5 or 9 or 10 or…ever.
So, especially if you can explain to your kids, or even just convince your folks or friends or whomever, that you are going to *do* something instead of get something, they will be able to keep the memory much longer than the thingamajigs they got (or didn’t get) this year.
It doesn’t have to be that grand or even cost that much money. I have tried this year to instill a little more Christmas doing and giving by taking the kids to the local Christmas parade where a local charity collected gifts for needy families. Next weekend we are going to the “Trail of Lights” where there is a walk-through Christmas light display. There are a handful of Christmas-themed 5Ks and Fun Runs complete with face painting and hot cocoa happening around town from now until Christmas Day and afterwards. If you have a sporty family, it can be fun for all, especially if you just want to get out and get some fresh air.
There are Christmas Markets in some parts of the world that have food and drink samplings and fun things to peruse/purchase. There are sing-alongs, caroling, Christmas tree lightings, ice skating, parades…if you have snow, a simple day of sledding can be amazing fun for kids of all ages. If you don’t have snow, try hiking or camping, and family games of charades or Pictionary or (something everyone has a chance to play and do well—let’s avoid the hurt feelings at Christmas) or whatever happens to be your favorite.
It’s a perfect time of year to get your family involved in a charity of some sort, either volunteering at a place that serves the needy, visiting nursing homes, collecting items for donations, or getting involved with an animal rescue. This kind of thing can really put the world into a different perspective for kids who are used to everything they could ever want being at their fingertips.
Religion is an obvious part of the holidays, and if it is part of your family’s traditions, go and sing and light candles and remember why we celebrate. I will always remember the specialness of getting dressed up on Christmas Eve, everyone holding candles and singing Silent Night, and then the stockings of apples and oranges and nuts and candies some dear soul at our church gave to all the kids. Just a whiff of those fruits in the midst of a cold night takes me right back to those days. How exciting it all was!
And honestly, just making things together like cookies and decorations or a snowman becomes the stuff imprinted on our brains when think about the holidays. I can still remember laying under the Christmas tree, looking up through the lighted branches, while my dad listened to Elvis’ “Blue Christmas.” It was so simple, but so lasting.
Of course, these are all things you can do *this* season. But maybe NEXT year, you can actually plan a trip somewhere special. Go to the mountains, go to the beach, rent a cabin in the woods, go on a cruise…or, gasp! Go to Paris, Costa Rica, Hawaii, or Rome! If you plan it now, or broach the idea to your family THIS year, you’ve got a whole year to plan and save and make it happen. I mean, life’s too short to sit around dreaming about going somewhere when you could…you really could, if you just decide to spend all that Christmas money on something different and longer lasting than just “stuff.”
Of course, there’s no place like home for the holidays! Just shake it up a bit, start a new tradition, and go DO something!