Victoria is a stay-at-home mom, author, educator, and blogger at Healthy at Home. She currently lives in Colorado with her family.
Christmas is a big deal for most people. Adults are decorating, planning, and shopping, and kids are attending parties, keeping up with Santa and the Elf on the Shelf, and planning out their Christmas list of desired presents. The Christmas season has essentially turned into a time of commercialism.
Moms all around me are constantly talking about gifts for their children and worrying about how much money they should be spending on them. Households all over the US are frantic about having perfectly decorated houses, participating in all of the latest Christmas parenting trends, and leading their kids up with treats and gifts. Even our families on both sides continue pumping my toddler up for all of the gifts he's going to get for Christmas.
What happened to the true meaning of Christmas? What happened to Christmas being a time to help others and consider other's needs?
In our household, we work hard to perpetuate the idea that we were put on this Earth not to please ourselves, but to be an example of Christ to others. All year long we look for opportunities to be a blessing to others, whether it's providing food to those on the side of the road, sending cards, making meals, or visiting those in the hospital. We've even put money in mailboxes anonymously for families we know are hurting for rent and food money, even if we're hurting ourselves.
So in the name of blessing others, we don't buy gifts at all for those occasions when they are expected. Though we do buy fun things all year long just because, and then we shop at thrift stores, garage sales, and Facebook sites. We rarely buy new stuff for ourselves.
Instead, for Christmas, we set up a Giving Tree. We fill it full of wonderful ideas for blessing others that we come up with as a family. Then every day during December we pull one or more ideas off of the tree and do it. It may be as simple as giving a gift, making a meal, or hugging someone that is hurting, but we make that (and the real story of Christmas) our focus. Then gifts that are given are thoughtful, but not expected.
Let me show you our tree!
Every day of the month of December, we purpose to do something that honors others in our lives, and for each "good deed" we put a beautiful snowflake on the door. We discuss how beautiful our blessings are in the lives of other people and how we can bring happiness to their lives with the things we do.
- White paper
- Great ideas for giving
- We started our tree in November with a Tree of Thanks where we filled it with all the things we're thankful for.
- I hot glued ribbon to the front door as a tree, so my 1 year old wouldn't pull it off.
- Then we cut out shapes for the door. (Hands for Thanksgiving and snowflakes for Christmas.)
- There are two ways to do this. You can write on them and then tape them to the door to be removed as you accomplish the blessing written.
- You can make a list of blessings and attach the snowflakes to the door as you do something nice for someone else.
I'm hoping that by taking the focus off of receiving gifts and instead focusing on what we can do to bless others, my children will grow up thinking differently. My goal is to develop a generous spirit in each of them that wants to create a better world through helping others. This practice also helps my kids to appreciate what they have and become kids that joyously share.
Another side bonus is that they aren't screaming about toys, we don't have to worry about spending a ton of money on useless stuff to fill up our home, and they value time, people and experiences more than they do stuff. We make most of our Christmas decorations ourselves every year, and we are going to cut our own Christmas tree for $10 in the national forest this weekend. On Christmas morning we make homemade cinnamon rolls and hot chocolate, play in the snow, and curl up together in front of a Christmas movie or make crafts together.
I would rather Christmas be about Christ, being a blessing to others, and family than presents and getting material things. Therefore, we are starting simple, like with this tree and practicing giving. Maybe it's time to consider some alternative Christmas traditions in your home as well.
© 2018 Victoria Van Ness
Victoria Van Ness (author) from Fountain, CO on December 04, 2018:
Thank you so much for the positive thoughts and the encouragement. (Tears.)
RTalloni on December 03, 2018:
Such a lovely post! Thank you for sharing your method of refusing to allow toy companies along with all the other industries making tons of money off the season rule your holidays and especially your children. It is heartening to hear about the trend to do things like this to help little ones understand the real reason we celebrate the season.
It's fun to send our little grands living so far away gifts at Christmas/birthdays but we've tried to send a combination of useful things (clothing, shoes, etc.), consumables (craft sets/books that keep little minds and hands busy learning/reading), and a few things we make, such as toy doll cradles and Montessori styled activity boards, instead of a bunch of toys that, as you say, fill up the house with plastic.
Recently I saw a news blip on a community effort to establish positive relationships between police and disadvantaged children. It is a program in which the police take them shopping for Christmas. The officers say that most of the time the children want to buy for a sibling, parent, or friend. It was a precious thing to hear of the heart these children have at that young age and so important to encourage it.
Your efforts to encourage your children in this way mean that you will have outstanding children and young adults. Protecting their open hearts from materialism, stemming the tide of popular culture's encroachment against their little minds, all works to strengthen them against being deceived as they grow up. Among other things, it will teach them to think things through. Bravo!
Victoria Van Ness (author) from Fountain, CO on December 03, 2018:
Thank you all. It's hard to know how to address all of the important issues with your children while they are still small. But I think it's about starting with one thing at a time as it comes up in your lives and is relevant. Thank you for your thoughtful comments.
Dianna Mendez on December 02, 2018:
I applaud your wanting to instill a spirit of generosity and giving in your children. It is the heart of the Christmas season.
Jason Behm from Cebu, Philippines on December 02, 2018:
I agree that Christmas nowadays has been overly commercialized. Its true essence has been diverted into material things. I like this article and its effort to redirect the readers to what Christmas really is all about, that is, to bless others and our loved ones and to be grateful of the good deeds experienced and to pass those to people around. Indeed, it is a wonderful legacy you can teach to your kids. Kudos to you!
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on December 01, 2018:
I think you are certainly embracing the true meaning of Christmas with your tree. That is a great tradition to teach your children.