Christmas is my absolute favourite time of year. I count down the seconds until it’s reasonable for me to pull out the decorations, dip in to the eggnog and start watching Christmas movies. In case you are wondering, December 1st is that magical date for me. There isn’t much that brings me more pleasure than the spirit of Christmas; the warmth, the cozy cuddling in the shadow of Christmas lights. What is better?
Since having children it has become even more special. They have brought back the magic. Watching them sparkle as they set eyes on Santa, listening to Mr. T. sing Feliz Navidad and helping Ms. J spell “Barbie” for her Christmas list makes it fun again.
As much as I love it and I can’t wait to see their little faces on Christmas morning as they tiptoe down the stairs to see what was left under the tree for them, I struggle slightly with the whole consumerism of the holiday. The whole Christmas shopping is a part of the experience for me. I love buying my kids gifts that they want and watching them squeal with delight as they open their gifts on Christmas morning brings me so much joy. Where my internal struggle comes into play is how much is too much?
My kids get presents from Santa, from us, from grandparents, from uncles, from cousins, it seems to never end. It gets overwhelming for me and I’m an adult! There are times when they are opening so many presents that I don’t even know if they are seeing what is in each beautifully wrapped package. They tear through the wrapping as though it’s a race to the finish line and as soon as the present is unwrapped another one is thrust at them and off to the races they go.
It has been a bit of a battle in my heart. I remember Christmas mornings in my house growing up, when my brother and I used to stand at the top of the stairs each trying to convince the other to go down first, afraid that Santa may still be hanging around downstairs. The giddy excitement I used to feel when I finally got the courage to take a look and our living room was filled with brightly wrapped packages twinkling under the lights of the tree. I want them to have those same memories yet I don’t want them to think that is what Christmas is all about.
The great gift debate is argued in my heart and in my mind every year. I try to mark the season in ways other than presents. I’m big on traditions so the entire month of December is spent partaking in Christmas activities as a family. Family movie nights during the whole month always involves Christmas movies. We bake and decorate cookies, put together a gingerbread house and make homemade decorations. Our Christmas tree decorating is the most fun and always involves my favourite carols and ends with hot chocolate. Then there are our night drives to marvel at the beautiful things some families do with Christmas lights, this seems to be the kids fave!
One of the traditions that we have started in our family is to include charitable donations as a part of our gift giving. We have discussions about how there are many families that are hungry because they don’t have enough food to eat. We talk about how fortunate we are that we don’t ever go to bed hungry, that we have a warm place to sleep at night, that we are safe and that we are blessed enough to both give and receive gifts. This year I showed them this video from UNICEF Canada to help them understand how we can give a gift and at the same time we can help someone in need. Check it out!
My kids are getting to an age where they understand the concept of giving back and it is so important to me that they learn from early on that they have a responsibility to help where they can. I’m proud of them both for being as generous as they are and am so happy that they seem just as excited to give as they are to receive.
Do you have a tradition of giving to charity at the holidays or any other time of year? How do you involve your kids in giving back and at what age did you start?