Redeeming Christmas

Long before our first daughter was born, Matt and I knew we wanted to do Christmas a little bit differently. We were not very fond of the materialism/consumerism that our culture glorifies at this time of year and talked often of what traditions we could put in place with our own family to put the emphasis on more important things than on spending money, getting lots of things and surviving the stress.

Being a stay-at-home mom has really been the greatest catalyst for us taking all our ideals and turning them into reality. As a one income family, we don't have a ton of money to spend even if we wanted to. Instead we have gotten creative and learned to enjoy the whole season for other reasons than shopping and presents.

Now don't get the wrong picture. I am not some heroic, self sacrificing Canadian who easily says goodbye to the Christams rush. Nope, not me. I LOVE to shop and spend money and go all out. Like really love it! So this has not been the smoothest of transitions in my life. I am actually so thankful for the lack of finances so that as I gradually shift my focus, there is less temptation to slip back into my old materialistic ways.

Here are a few of the things we have worked to implement in our own little family in order to start making an effort to redeem Christmas:

1. For Matt's and my gift to each other we often buy something that is on our big purchase list but that we truly need. That way we are getting something we really needed to buy anyway but get the extra enjoyment of calling it a Christmas gift!

2. The kids get 3 gifts each from us. I remember before I had kids a co-worker of mine saying, "If Jesus only got 3 gifts, why should our kids get anymore?!". It was more of a funny comment than a serious reason for doing it but she really did put it into practice and I really respected that. So now with our own kids, we do the same thing. For our first Christmas as parents, I felt like that was going to be impossible! But in the end, I love that we do this! It makes me take the time to really research toys and think about what would truly be the best gifts for my kids. That way the gifts that we give are truly thoughtful. Not only that but we also enjoy the added benefit of our home not overflowing with toys once Christmas has all been said and done.

Here is a good post at Live Renewed on the 3 gifts concept.

3. I am only beginning to embrace this next suggestion: second hand gifts. On a general basis, I love second hand shopping. I am always thrilled to find something I wanted or needed at a second hand store or yard sale for a fraction of the cost! But for some reason, I feel its wrong to second hand shop for Christams gifts! Well, that is changing! This year I have a Dora house with the figurines that I got for $5 from our neighbor's yard sale in the summer. I've saved it and am giving it to Taitum, our household's newest Dora fan! I also found some great books at the library that were being sold for 25 cents! One is going to be Tait's book gift and the rest, which are smaller, will become stocking stuffers! And I feel GOOD about it! Over time I hope to do more of this. It will probably mean shopping well in advance so I can find things I'm looking for as gifts but in the end, I'd say its totally worth the effort!

4. We try to make gifts for our extended family as much as we can. For example, last year we did up baskets for all the grandparents in which everything was made by Piper (Taitum was a newborn at the time but I'm sure she'll be a happy participant this year!). We included Hot Cocoa Cones, a picture frame that Piper made with a picture of herself in it, a foam snowflake tree ornament with Taitum's pic on one side and handprint on the other, baking that Piper and I had done together, coffee mugs that Piper drew pictures on (this did not work very well...I bought some markers at Michael's that were supposed to be for that very purpose but they didn't work so well. I ended up only including the mugs in one basket since they had turned out OK but for the rest, let Piper pick mugs out at the Dollar Store!), candy canes with chocolate molds that we made using Wilton Frosty Friends Candy Cane Molds and a album of all the pics from Taitum's 2 month photoshoot!

Considering that our parents and grandparents are ever so hard to buy anything for this was the perfect solution! Not only that but we had a wonderful time making everything and I think it may have meant that much more to them that we put the thought and effort into it! This year I am just so excited to come up with new ideas of things that the girls and I (Matt helps when he can, too!) can create and give to those we love the most!

5. We put very little emphasis on Santa. Believe it or not, our reasoning for this is not simply 'religious'. That said, it does have a lot to do with the fact that we are Christians. For us, Jesus is WAY better than Santa. He is the one that we strive to point our kids to ALL year long. But no, we don't ascribe to the notion that because Santa and Satan contain the same letters, that he must be evil. In fact, we include Santa stories in our Christmas chatter the same way we do with talk of Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella the rest of the year. For our kids, he is just that - a make-believe story. We refuse to lie to them about anything including Saint Nick.

That aside, we also feel that Santa promotes the materialism of Christmas. Sit on his lap and tell him what you want, write a letter and tell him everything you'd like to see under the tree Christmas morning or call into the radio so you can make it clear to him what you wish to recieve...thats just not the kind of kids I want to raise and those are not the values I wish to instill. I hope that as a family we can grow into people that at Christmas time (and the rest of the year, too!) are instead asking 'How can I help?', "What can I do to bring hope?' and 'In what ways can I give?' So is Santa bad? Nope. He is a fictional Christmastime story about generosity and giving. And that is basically the beginning and end of the Santa issue for us. 

Interested on the subject of Christian's and Santa? Here's a good article: What We Tell Our Kids About Santa ~ Mark Driscoll

These are the things that we have already begun to put into action at Christmas time. Like I've said before, this is one of my most favorite seasons but I don't think that every holiday has to be forever done the same way because its the way you've always done it. I think its a worthwhile endevour to assess what you do and why you do it. Then change the things that are pointless, or worse, dangerous! Hold to and build the traditions that have meaning and point to Jesus.

Next, I hope to share with you some of the changes our family aspires to this Christmas and in the future.

How have you changed things in your Christmas traditions? What new things have you started to do every year? I'd love to hear your thoughts and ideas!

Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before!
"Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store.
"Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!"

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Sandi Yacobucci said...

Gina: I LOVE your thoughts and insights into how Christmas should be for your family. You are so on track here, and raising your girls to believe they can be a part of helping others --especially at such a "give me time of year" is even better.
Here are some of the ideas we have put into place---for the same reason, I was tired of the materialistic nature of the Christmas Season and made a decision to change it in our family.
We do not do Christmas Stockings---instead we do Stock Boxes---each person who attends our Christmas Eve brings one wrapped item. it can be homemade or boughten but the important criteria is that it has to be something the person can use. It can be food, maybe a new toothbrush, or a small packet of gum but cannot cost anymore than 2.00. To help with the environmental waste issue, we wrap in newspaper.
The Stock Boxes are just cardboard boxes ---you write each persons name on a box and then you or the kids can decorate the boxes to their hearts content. This could be a craft in itself to keep the wee ones busy while you do other Christmas activities that they cannot help you with.
Bottom line here is, if you have 14 people coming, each person brings 13 small wrapped gifts and they put one gift in each stock box except their own. I watch for bargains throughout the year and have a stock box full of cool items that I add to the boxes to make them more fun.
Once everyone is there, we take our boxes and sit around in a circle --enjoying some homemade snacks and apple cider etc and each person takes a turn opening one of their gifts. Sometimes, there are some funny gifts in there, to suit the occasion and they make the event one we can laugh about and remember in the years to come.
Over all, I have got to say that in the 5 years we have been doing this event, it has become the one that no one wants to miss at Christmas and it is truly so simple and inexpensive to do. It brings home what Christmas should be about, sharing a wonderful time with the ones we hold closest to our hearts. Hope this is clear enough--if not, send me a message and I can explain further.
I have lots of other ideas too---Connie has heard some of them and she does know about the Stock Box Idea also.
Keep up the wonderful blog--it is such a pleasure to read your stories and to watch your wonderful young ladies growing up before my eyes.
Love Sandi

Gina said...

That sounds like a really fun idea Sandi! We'lll have to give it a try some year! Thanks for sharing!

Stephanie M. Page said...

Super great post!! My parents always gave us only three gifts and we do the same, i never thought about why. =) Oh the santa thing is harder than i ever thought it would be because i don't plan on lying but i don't think imagination is bad at christmas time either. whenever my oldest asks about santa i just i guess we will see! =) I will have to go read that mark driscoll article. =)

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