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Shifting Christmas Focus

Dear Jennifer:

My kids are driving me crazy with their endless lists of stuff they want for Christmas. I love the holidays, but I hate the commercialism with its selfish focus on me, me, me. And with the economy like it is, I really can’t afford to indulge them this year, anyway. Help!

Beleaguered Mother

Dear Mother,

Sit your kids down as soon as possible and tell them that they will only be getting one gift this year (or two, or just stockings—whatever scaling back looks like for you) and that you will pick it, so they can keep their wish lists to themselves. Meanwhile, enlist their help in making a new sort of list—a list of things they would like to do all season long to celebrate Christmas together. Activities need not be expensive. Would they like to string popcorn for the tree? Drive around to look at Christmas lights? Watch It’s a Wonderful Life as a family? Sing carols on the neighbors’ doorsteps? Take homemade cards to shut-ins? Try to think of things you can do to serve others this season, as well. When our family made our list several years ago, one child suggested we take hot coffee to the Salvation Army bell ringers when the weather was especially cold—something we’ve done every year since (see what else is on our list).

You’ll want to include all the normal activities that have become cherished family traditions, like going to grandma’s or putting up house lights or making fantasy fudge. But you should also brainstorm to come up with new ideas, like working at the soup kitchen, or reading The Gift of the Magi, or attending a candlelight service. Keep a copy of your list to reference again next year. Add to it as inspiration strikes. You may not always get to every item on the list, but the process of trying will help change your family’s focus from the gifts under the tree to the people around it.

Sending my prayers and best wishes for a Christ-filled Christmas…

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