If we give Christmas away
I don't like to think about Christmas too early on these days. I'm part of, what I like to think is the majority, of people who groan when on the 1st September the Christmas aisle has appeared in the supermarkets. In an ideal world I wouldn't give it a thought until at least November, and nothing festive would even touch me until December. But with 3 young children and the commercialisation of Christmas I don't stand a chance.
Don't get me wrong, i'm no Scrooge, I love Christmas. It's magical, and wonderful and brightens the dreary winter days like nothing else. And the best bit? It's Jesus' birthday! How lovely to take some time to remember and celebrate and to give thanks. But due to some exciting work opportunities I had to start thinking about Christmas in September this year. Including getting out all the decorations and putting them up to do some photography. They were quickly put away and wont be making a reappearance until December 1st at the earliest. But it did give me pause, and get me thinking about what I wanted this Christmas to look like.
You see we have spent over 2 years now becoming minimalists, giving away the things we don't need anymore, cutting out the excess, and cutting down how much we bring into our home in the first place quite drastically. It's been enlightening, and freeing and it's changed our home life for the better. So thinking about Christmas fills me with a tiny bit of dread. How do we give our children a wonderful time without bringing in the usual mountain of gifts? How do we get away from the consuming aspect of Christmas and get back to actually celebrating the birth of Jesus?
Wouldn't it be wonderful if instead of thinking that Christmas was a time for getting and consuming more and more, we saw it as a time for giving more, being there more, and consuming less, way less. Then we would really be celebrating Christmas.
I've already come up with a few ways we will be doing things differently this year. We implemented a one gift rule last year, so each of our 3 children will only receive one present under the tree from us. They still get gifts from other relatives, and a few things in their stockings, but we just buy them one thing. It worked really well last year as we were able to select the one thing they would truly enjoy the most rather than overwhelming them with so many different things which inevitably ends in them choosing one to focus on anyway, and the rest seem to soon be forgotten. It also means we don't have toy boxes bursting at the seams for the months to come, until we can convince them to part with something old. Which in the case of our Middle boy, the budding hoarder, never happens, so the less he accumulates the better.
When it comes to gifts from other family members, the kids have an Amazon wish list each and people can buy for them on there without running the risk of duplicating and don't risk getting them something they don't actually want or need, or maybe have grown out of or gone off since they last saw the gift giver. It can feel a little uninspired but it saves us having to feel guilty when the toys they didn't ask for inevitably end up in the donation box. Another great thing we have added to their wish lists are gifts for the whole family. Last year we received an annual pass to Cadw Castles, and to the National Botanic Garden of Wales. Both passes have been used more times than I can count and have provided a whole year of fun and memories to last a lifetime. They are the first gifts I think of when trying to recollect what we got last year, and I think even the kids would have a hard time remembering the different toys they received. But these passes they remember and have loved. And the family members that bought them for us seem keen to do the same again this year, as they have loved seeing the children's enjoyment throughout the whole year.
This year I am going to change the way we do advent calendars too. I'm big on memory making, and would much rather our kids looked back on each Christmas as a time we laughed together, and played together and spent time enjoying the company of friends and family. As opposed to a time they got lots of new toys. I can appreciate that getting lots of new toys is an exciting thing for a child, I remember the feeling well, but it isn't going to warm their hearts in years to come. So this year as well as a little sweet each day we will every few days get a surprise, whether it be a family activity, an outing somewhere, baking something together or even just playing a game. I think this will help create lovely memories and help take the focus off the consumerist Christmas we are all too familiar with.
I've mentioned this idea to the children, and Oldest has already said she'd like one of the things to be donating clothes and toys to children that don't have much this Christmas. She is so caring and at just 8 years old already understands the real meaning of Christmas. We are also going to do a reverse advent calendar through our church. We will be putting something into the box each day and then at Christmas it will be given to one of the many refugee families living locally that our church supports. This can easily be done on your own, and you could donate the box to your local food bank or a charity in your area.
When I think about Christmas it's all too easy to start thinking of all the things I need to get done, the food I need to buy, the social obligations I need to make time for, and not to mention thinking about money and how we're going to afford it all. As for my children, their first thought often seems to be what presents they will get.
I'm hoping that this Christmas will change that though. I would love it if when we thought about Christmas we thought about Jesus, and about giving, about generosity, and about kindness. About sharing, serving, and blessing others. Spending time with family, rather than spending money on family.
Let's take some time this Christmas to think about how we can give this Christmas away, and by doing so truly celebrate Christmas.
I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below. How you like to give back at this time of year, and how you make time for family.