How to have the Christmas you’ve always wanted – part 4

Children – What They Really Want

Christmas is for children. They add so much joy and excitement to the Christmas celebration. As we watch our children we remember forgotten childhood memories of Christmases long past. The magic of Christmas returns as we enjoy Christmas with our children. Children also give us a chance to examine our holiday activities, which ones to keep and which ones to drop, and start family traditions.

With all this joy children also bring added concerns. Children, it seems, become preoccupied at an early age with receiving gifts. This preoccupation, along with the myriad commercial pressures, make it difficult for parents to create a simple, values-centered family Christmas. We’ll attempt here to alleviate these concerns.

We agree that children really don’t need all the toys and gifts they claim to want. They don’t want them either as evidenced by their boredom hours after receiving the gifts. So what do children really want and need for Christmas?

Children need a relaxed, loving time with family. This means more to them than a tree loaded with gifts. Yet it is much more difficult to provide. With all the added work, planning the Christmas celebration, decorating the tree and the house, cleaning the house, and shopping for gifts, one of the first things to get pushed aside is spending time with the children, with the family. It is important for families to set firm priorities even if it means not participating in other activities. Each December I set aside one Saturday with my children baking cookies and making fudge for Christmas giving and eating. I found that if I didn’t decide ahead of time which Saturday was baking day, we would lose that special time together.

Children need realistic expectations about gifts. Many children go through the toy catalog as soon as it arrives in the mail marking every toy they want. “I want that,” follows each toy commercial whether the child likes the toy or not. If the focus of a child’s Christmas is gifts, they experience a sharp let down when the gift giving is done. Parents need to get their children excited about other aspects of the Christmas celebration and spread that excitement throughout the entire season. Establishing value-centered family traditions help lessen the focus on gifts.

Instead of the fast-paced holiday season, children need a slower, evenly-paced season. In the 1800’s Christmas had a much shorter buildup time. Many people didn’t start preparing for Christmas until mid-December, but their celebration lasted for a week or more. Even as short as twenty years ago the Christmas season didn’t begin until the day after Thanksgiving. Now the preparing for Christmas begins before Halloween and the celebration ends midnight Christmas day. Consider holding off your traditions until a week or so before Christmas or doing one or two traditions a week between Thanksgiving and Christmas and continuing the celebration through New Year’s Day or Epiphany, January 6. Slowdown the pace of your holiday season. Your children with thank you.

Children want to look forward to the same events happening every year. In my house, my children look forward to watching as many of our Christmas DVDs and videos as possible, baking cookies, including frosted sugar cookies, doing the advent calendars on the VeggieTales and Garfield websites ( and, tracking Santa on Norad’s Santa Tracker website (, and reading the Christmas story before opening gifts every year. I’m sure I’ve forgotten some things we do, but you get the idea. With these traditions that we’ve established, my children have the chance to do something they enjoy every year. Strong traditions give children a sense of comfort and security. They know that in an ever changing world these Christmas activities will always happen. These traditions don’t have to be elaborate. Simple activities will suffice. As you can see from my list, none of the activities are exacting. They don’t cost a lot of money. Ask your children what they would like to do to celebrate Christmas. They can help you know what traditions to keep and what traditions to eliminate, or at least do less often.

Children, they can add so much to the enjoyment of the Christmas season. They can also add many concerns. The exercises that follow will help you help your children enjoy Christmas this year and every year.

Exercise: Helping Children Enjoy Christmas

1. Of all the needs of children at Christmas, enjoyable time with their families is most important. Think back to last December. Excluding Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, did you spend (underline the correct word) more, about the same, or less happy, relaxed time with your children in December, compared to other months?

2. If your answer to the above question was “less,” look through the following list and check the suggestions on how to spend more time with your children that seem most feasible for you.
Taking extra time off from work
Simplifying our holiday preparations
Entertaining less
Attending fewer parties that are just for adults
Being more relaxed about how the house looks
Cutting back on outside commitments
Making fewer gifts
Watching less television
Traveling less
Seeing fewer friends and relatives

3. Which holiday traditions do your children seem to enjoy most? (If you are uncertain, take some time in the next few days to talk with them.)

4. What holiday traditions or family activities do you children have to look forward to after December 25? (If you have none or very few [try some of the] suggestions [listed after the exercises].

5. Check the statement that most accurately completes this thought: Gift-giving plays the following role in our family celebration:
It is by far the most important tradition.
It is one of several important traditions.
It is of moderate importance.
It is of relatively minor importance.

6. On a sheet of paper, write each of your children’s names and jot down a few sentences that describe his or her attitude toward Christmas presents last year. (If one or more of your children seemed overly concerned with gifts, you may wish to review this [blog].

Suggestions to do after December 25:
Celebrate each of the twelve days of Christmas with simple activities geared for children.
Create a family calendar for the month of December showing when things will be done.
Put together a puzzle or play games.
Put a container filled with candy or some other treat on the tree not to be
eaten until the tree is taken down.
Celebrate the new year with family games and activities.

The Christmas Pledge

Believing in the beauty and simplicity of Christmas, I commit myself to the following:
1. To remember those people who truly need my gifts
2. To express my love for family and friends in more direct ways than presents
3. To rededicate myself to the spiritual growth of my family
4. To examine my holiday activities in light of the true spirit of Christmas
5. To initiate one act of peacemaking within my circle of family and friends

The material presented here was taken from the book Unplug The Christmas Machine by Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock Staeheli published by William Morrow and Company, Inc.


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