Moving Away from Material Gifts
The way you feel about the holiday season can have a lot to do with how it was celebrated in your home growing up.
My mom would lug several tubs of decorations from the attic every year and replace nearly every standard decor item with a Christmas one. She delighted in getting a real tree and gifting us with an ornament each year. The thing I remember most fondly though is the tradition of singing Christmas carols to and from church. I don’t know if it was because it was a 30 minute drive one way (that we did three times a week), or if it was the one consistent place we all went together. Either way, we sang and sang, rotating who got to pick the next song. I know so many of the classics because of this.
Now, when I try to get my kids to join in on this in our van, it gets met with mixed resistance. Maybe they don't enjoy carpool karaoke like we did. Regardless, this memory always make me smile and brings joy to my heart.
This tradition cost us nothing and yet it remains my favorite one. When my husband and I started our own family, we made a conscience decision to keep Christmas modest, focusing more on Christ and being together with family.
In the beginning that was easy, as we were scraping along on one income and a fledgling business. As the years have gone by and the business has grown (with financial life more abundant), this has had to be a conscience choice. It is easy to change course when your circumstances change.
When the kids were little, buying toys was such a joy and they seemed to love them so much! Now that they are older and want fewer toys, we have decided to shift even more from the material and increasingly exposing them to the giving side of Christmas. This is not always met with enthusiasm (kind of like my carols in the car idea), but we feel it is important to instill a sense of wonder and charity in our kids surrounding the holiday season.
Maybe you grew up in a home that went all out on gifts for Christmas and you have fallen into the same pattern, or perhaps you just feel the need to transition to a less materialistic celebration. If that is the case, here are a few ways to move in that direction.
Take it slow
This applies more if you have older kids who have been accustomed to Christmas being a certain way. If you have young kids or no kids yet, this shift can be done in one year. If you have family to get on board, be kind, patient, but steadfast in your request to harbor a more modest Christmas.
Know your kids’ love language
If you know how your kids feel loved the best, this can help in how you move from material things. If your kid loves quality time, then organizing a one-on-one date with them will really fill their love tank and can easily be done on a shoestring budget. If it is physical touch, then a snuggle-sesh and a movie of their choice might be the thing. Act of service kids might find enjoyment in having you help organize and rearrange their room. If words are the way to their heart, a meaningful letter for them to open on Christmas morning might do more good than you could imagine! Finally if gifts are their thing, make the physical gift they receive one of intentionality that conveys that they are known. That doesn’t have to cost a lot to send the right message. No matter the love language, there is a gift out there to speak to your kids’ hearts. Praying over them and allowing God to inspire your list is an excellent place to start.
Involve your kids in giving
As my kids are getting older I can include them in more of the charity we participate in during this time of year. This helps them grow in their servitude. For instance, we sponsored a foster child this year and I took my girls to the store to help me with some of the shopping. Then when we put all the gifts together, we prayed over her packages before I took them to the drop off. This opened up conversation about the ‘why’ of our giving. They don't see a lot of what we do in that area because we give online to things or support ministries they will never tangibly see.
The wonder of Christmas is much more than the anticipated toys or other gifts they find under the tree.
The memories and legacy we hope to gift to them are achieved in taking time each year to be intentional givers of our time and resources. We don’t do this perfectly and I often feel I am not doing enough, but grace is there, waiting in the wings and cheering me on in my progression—no matter how small. I believe it is doing the same for you and your family.
May this season fill you with wonder and anticipation of the work that Christ is doing in you.