Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Christmas Craze

Like most new parents, Blake and I are wondering how to go about "doing" this whole Christmas thing. We've been discussing Christmas traditions long before Maleah ever came along and now it's time to start putting those things into practice. We have made some thoughtful decisions that I hope help teach our children that celebrating Christmas means celebrating Christ. But, don't just read! Share what you're doing, too. I want to hear others' ideas on shifting the focus off of consumerism and back onto the hope of Christ.

Disclaimer: I'm not judging anyone. Let's just get that out there, okay?

First things first: Blake and I will be the weirdos who don't "do" Santa for our kids. Working in elementary schools totally ruined the whole Santa thing for me. I hated talking (read: lying) to kids about how someone could possibly travel the world in one night, how he could fit down the chimney, and how the Santa's in the malls are just his "helpers". I just hated it. Essentially, we have no problem with the story of the real Saint Nicholas or even about letting our children enjoy the character of Santa Claus. Heck, we already have plans to take her to get her picture made with the jolly old elf! I'm cool with that. I just don't want to get caught up in the lies and stories and all that. Oh, and I especially don't want to play the "bad kids get coal" game because let's face it - the bad kids usually get the best gifts. Santa won't be used as a bribe for good behavior and we won't be writing wish lists to him. I hope my kids won't need therapy for this.

Gifts are my love language, so this is what I struggle with most at Christmas. I love to give and to receive. We hope to teach our children that Christmas is a time for giving to others and enjoying what others have given us. I love the "something they want/need/wear/read" thing going around, and we've decided to base our gifts around that. While I can't promise we'll stop at just four presents, we will definitely give our children an assortment of those types of things. We want to avoid the onslaught of random toys that will only hold their attention for a millisecond. That's what grandparents are for, right? :)

Blake and I do exchange gifts, but we set a very modest budget because we usually get money as a gift from our families. Last year, we went shopping together with that money and it was so much fun! We bought some things we had been wanting to better organize our apartment, and we each got something "fun" for ourselves. We loved it!

As far as giving goes, we really want to place an emphasis on enjoying giving to others. We want to do some sort of charitable giving that involves our children each year. I'm sure the means we'll use will change as our children grow, but one idea Blake had that I love is that we have our kids give away items (in good condition) they no longer use/need before Christmas. I love this because I hate keeping things we no longer use/need and it teaches them how to sacrifice for the sake of others. I also like the idea of giving them money to spend as they see fit for those in need.

I've never really intentionally celebrated Advent at home and I'm really excited about what we're doing this year! My mom is crocheting 25 mini stockings for me to turn into a garland and use as our Advent calendar. This year we'll follow a guide of 25 Scriptures to read each day before Christmas (I'll put the passages in the little stockings). In the future, we'll do more kid-friendly activities that really involve them in the waiting.

I am also looking forward to having our own Advent wreath that we can light each night at dinner. I'll post a picture once I've made it, but my plan is to buy five white pillar candles, pink and purple ribbon (I already have white), and some burlap. I'll wrap purple ribbon around three candles, pink around one, white around another, put them in a circle with a candle in the middle and use the burlap as the "wreath". Easy, inexpensive, and usable!

The Tree
I love the Christmas tree. I also love ornaments. Two years ago, I spent over $100 on ornaments in one day. Yup. Obviously this is a habit I need to get control of FAST! My ornament plan is as follows:
1. Each family member gets one new ornament each year.
2. We make a family ornament each year.
PERIOD, KATIE. PERIOD. (This is gonna be hard. They're so sparkly!!!)

Other Traditions
I love getting new PJ's on Christmas Eve, so I'd like to continue that in our family. Blake and I would like to try to give the PJ's and read the Christmas story before bed on Christmas Eve while drinking hot chocolate. So special! (I am obsessed with hot chocolate, FYI. It WILL be a part of Christmas.)

Before opening presents on Christmas day, I would love for us to light the final Advent candle and spend some time together as a family. Maybe we have breakfast and sing a few carols, read some Scripture, and pray for others before rushing into the living room. I'm really not sure how this will play out since it will still be a few years before Maleah understands what is happening. So, if you have some ideas about how to avoid the OHMYGOSHITSCHRISTMASMORNINGANDTHEREAREPRESENTS mania, please share!!!

That's about all I've got at this point. I'm reading Treasuring God in Our Traditions by Noel Piper and I must say, it is a beautifully written story. I am a person who LOVES traditions and I want to pass those things along to our children and grandchildren, while helping them understand that we do those things because they help us focus on Christ. Please share some of your holiday traditions that help keep the Christmas Craze at a minimum at your house!!


  1. We aren't "doing" Santa either. It was really interesting when Noah and I went to Target Saturday, because there was Santa stuff, and he asked what it was. I told him it was a dog toy (because the item he was pointing at WAS a dog toy!), so now he thinks Santa is a "dog." Ha. Oops.

    We are also working on the giving fewer gifts thing. With last year being the first Christmas Noah really kind of understood what was going on, I think we bought a little bit too much stuff for him, especially when combined with what the grandparents gave him. This year, we are basically doing one bigger/nicer item (an art easel that we will stock with supplies, because he loves to draw and color) and probably a stocking. We've also talked with our relatives about doing one small toy and then putting any other money they had budgeted into a savings account for him. We'll see how that goes!

    1. Blake and I had the conversation this morning about what to say when Maleah starts asking us questions about who Santa is and why kids at school think he's coming to visit. That'll be hard, I'm sure!

      I'm grateful that our families seem to be on board with not overwhelming our kids with gifts. While I don't want to limit them, it seems like each set has taken it's own approach. My mom is buying a wagon and crocheting Maleah a blanket and Blake's parents are giving her a few things and then giving us money to pay for other things we need/want. I appreciate that they are considering being intentional with gift-giving!

  2. I know you said you're not likely to stop at just a few present, but I thought I'd share what my parents did anyway. We always received three gifts from them/"Santa" as we were growing up, with the idea that Jesus received three gifts and so there was no need to indulge beyond that. Yes, there is savings in mind with that--but it also just made a lot of sense. We usually received one "big" gift, one clothing gift and one something else. I remember being vaguely jealous of friends who had piles and piles of gifts, but that envy never lasted long.

    1. I think what's holding me back on limiting the number is that most of what Maleah is getting (this Christmas and probably the next few) are actual necessities. So far, the only things I've purchased for her as Christmas gifts are shoes, spring/summer clothes, and some books - and I have gotten all of them at very deep discounts (or used). I think maybe when our kids are older and have actual wish lists, we may do a limit and then maybe take them shopping for shoes & clothes. The jealousy issue scares me... I know I had envy issues (and still do as an adult), but I hope we can help Maleah and our future children learn to handle those feelings.

    2. I decided to make Christmas gifts be only things they want (since there is a limited number of gifts). So, if I get things like clothes for them, they will just get that around christmas time, and not on Christmas morning-- that will be for the fun stuff.

    3. I hadn't really thought much about this, but I would also add that we are not doing "necessities" as Christmas gifts. I can remember getting socks, underwear and clothes as a kid and not really caring that much about it. Maybe when I got older, but as a young kid, I definitely didn't care about the clothes (and honestly would've preferred picking them out myself when I was older). So that cuts back on the gifts, too, for us. It's really tempting for me to use Christmas as an excuse to buy a bathtub toy holder and a hook for Noah's potty training seat (both things we need, that are on my Amazon wish list) as "gifts" for him, but I just don't see those things as gifts. And, for me personally, same goes for clothes. We have to buy him clothes, so I just don't really view those as gifts. Later in life, if there's some specific designer something-or-other he wants, then, yes, that could be a gift. Hope this makes sense.

    4. Good points, friends! Maybe I can jump on this 3 gift bandwagon because I am only planning to get Maleah 3 toys. I think I have been using the clothes/shoes thing as an excuse to buy her clothes and shoes... haha! Which, she needs anyway, but... hmmm... just toys at Christmas. I'll think about it!

  3. I just told the kids the other day that Santa wasn't real. Ive never really been a huge fan of all the crap you have to do in order to keep Santa "alive"....so I put an end to it! Gift giving is also my love language, so it is always hard keeping the gifts under control. Not just for the kids, but for everyone on my list. I find myself on Dec 23rd going out for "just one more thing!" every single year lol. We did the Advent wreath growing up and it was such fun and I do it with our kids too. We've always done the new pjs, christmas story thing too, but last year we went and looked at christmas lights in our new pjs...SO FUN.

    Im loving a simpler, more Christ centered Christmas. I feel such a huge weight lifted since we ditched Santa. Jesus' birth is enough, no need to add some random other thing to distract from it! I just wish my parents wouldve said no santa to me!

    1. Ahhh... the "just one more" trap!!! I'm totally there, haha! Oh yeah! Christmas lights! We did that last year with my parents (just not in our PJs) on Christmas Eve and it was so fun!

  4. I love Christmas traditions! I'm so excited to have a child on Christmas, even though she doesn't know what's going on yet.

    I'm not a big fan of Santa anymore either. I even have a hard time watching the Santa movies that I love, because they talk so much about believing in Santa.. I don't plan on perpetuating the Santa myth to our kids, but they will have a gift from "Santa" that will be unwrapped under the Christmas tree in the morning. That was always fun for me, even though I don't ever remember strongly believing that there was actually a Santa.
    We're going to do 3 gifts (like baby Jesus got) and the one from "Santa" I mentioned. It's going to be a little difficult, since I really love buying gifts, too. I like giving them more than receiving. But four per child will really add up, and that will be enough. Then there are stocking stuffers! So I'll get used to it. If they ask about Santa, I will tell them about Saint Nicholas, and that we carry on that tradition because of him.

    Once they reach a certain age (maybe 5 or 6), they will start buying gifts for one another. My parents gave each of us $10 per person and we bought a gift for each of our family members. I think it teaches kids how to think about someone other than themselves. We learned how to be thoughtful and creative to make the other person happy on Christmas morning.

    I've thought that I would like to do something special on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning, like going to a soup kitchen to serve the homeless, or something like that. I will iron it out more once the children get older.

    My Christmas tree tradition will be what I remember growing up. We will go out and pick the tree together, as a family, bring it home and decorate it together while christmas music plays and we enjoy hot cocoa and maybe popcorn. That's one of my favorite memories of Christmas, and I can't wait for my family to do that!

    1. A service project on our around Christmas is an excellent idea! Some of our friends at church do a Random Act of Christmas Kindness each day of the month of December. I love hearing their stories! Leaving books for families on doorsteps, treats for the mail man/garbage man, working in a soup kitchen, donating clothes, etc. Love it!