Q: What do you do for Christmas celebrations? How do we get through without it being a focus on presents and stuff and food? Is it possible to shake off the materialism of this season?
Sure, I have a few thoughts, in no particular order:
#1- I don’t know how old your kids are, but one thing that has been helpful for us, especially as our kids grow, is to see how excited they get about giving gifts to one another. So that could be one way to shift the focus– developing a heart of giving to others.
And it doesn’t have to be stuff anyone BUYS. It could be a painting, or a doll they make, or a game they create for another child, or whatever.
#2- For us as parents, one shift we’ve made lately is to choose gifts that build our kids up according to the gifts and talents God has built into them. So, we give books about topics of interest, or tools in order to grow in a particular area (i.e., paintbrushes & canvases, or gardening tools & seeds, or even Legos in our little guys in whom God’s nature of creativity is showing up ).
So that’s a shift we’ve made in recent years that has made Christmas even more meaningful and more of an extension of our role as parents. We see things God has built in them as individuals, and encourage them to grow in those areas by the particular gifts we choose (usually only 1-2 per child).
#3- As far as other possible methods to center things on Christ… my husband reads portions of the nativity story each night leading up to Christmas, focused on each “character/character set” in the story. So just the shepherds one night. Joseph one night. The parts about the angels one night. Etc.
Some years, we’ve hidden that night’s character somewhere in the house and the kids have to find it before we read the story.
#4- Play and enjoy Christ-focused Christmas music. You could sing together in the evenings. If you haven’t ever done it, I’d highly recommend that every person attend a live performance of Handel’s Messiah at least once in their lives (and make sure you have the lyrics handy so you can follow along with the amazing verbal unfolding of the Gospel!).
Last year, we attended a Christmas concert put on by one of my favorite bands, Ghost Ship:
#5- You could watch the movie, “The Nativity Story.”
#6- We also just spend more time together on relaxed things… decorating the windows with homemade snowflakes, spending time working on a skill together (like crocheting in front of the fire), and I typically make homemade cinnamon rolls the night before Christmas so we have that as our Christmas breakfast. The last few years, the older kids have helped make them, which is a nice time together.
We’ll bake things together, and I even let them take the lead on choosing what we make and preparing it, when we’ve signed up for various desserts/goodies/dishes for holiday events. We play games and use this slower pace as a time to enjoy each other more intentionally as a family, in a less rushed way.
- You could have quiet evenings where you end each night expressing one reason you’re glad Jesus was born.
- “Rehearse” the Gospel together as a family (each person that’s able, re-state the Gospel in their own words) purposefully weaving in the way that Christ came to earth.
- You could bake tasty goodies, or loaves of bread with butter, and deliver them to your neighbors with a Christmas card that is personalized to your family, and shares about your gratefulness for the Gospel. We did this when we lived overseas, and I wish we would still do it.
- Some people enjoy doing puzzles together, though with little kids, that’s not something we’ve gotten in the habit of doing.
There are still plenty of quiet, non-commercial ways to honor Christ’s birth, or honor Christ in general, or simply enjoy the quiet of the season, without giving into the materialistic spirit of this age.
And remember: your Christmas doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s. Instead of looking to Instagram, think about how Christian mothers over the past 20 centuries might have made these moments special:
- Time together
- Something tasty
- Or something made to commemorate the season
- Reading through the Scriptures
- Retelling the stories
It doesn’t have to be miraculous, or Insta-worthy. People don’t remember the perfect details anyway. They remember the times and things we experience together.
All it takes is an intentional choice, which is sometimes the hardest part. Opting out of the gifts, out of the rush, saying “no” to events, so we can say “yes” to the most important things– making memories together, and worshiping our Risen Lord.
READERS: WHAT ABOUT YOU? What non-materialistic ways of celebrating Christmas do YOU enjoy as a family?