T’is the season -Traditions, gifts and giving back

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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!

https://www.hightail.com/download/OGhlcXl0bThvQUpqQThUQw

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?

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6 thoughts on “T’is the season -Traditions, gifts and giving back

  1. Ange

    Since my daughter started JK right years ago, her school always has a shoebox drive at Christmas, where families have the opportunity to fill a shoebox with toys, candy, and everyday necessities for children aged 2-14. These boxes are then sent down and delivered to children in less fortunate and impoverished countries. Each year my kids are so excited to fill these boxes and hand them in. It truly warms my heart to see them enjoy giving as much as they do.

    • Natalie

      That’s great! I think it’s such an important thing to lesson to give to children from a young age. Giving back always makes you feel good. That’s what we are here for, to help wherever we can!

  2. Kelly F

    My husband is fortunate to work with companies that participate in toy drives every year so we all go to Walmart and buy one toy each.
    Also, we try to participate in the shoebox charity. Operation Christmas Child. This year we sent 3 boxes. Felt good.

    • Natalie

      That’s great! It does feel good and I think it’s good for the kids to be a part of that. It helps them to appreciate all that they have.

  3. Linda Di Genova

    Hi Nat. Lovely story and Unicef Video. I don’t think there is any ‘right’ age to start teaching the Christmas lessons of love, peace and giving. The younger they are, the better. We incorporate it with the first message of Christ’s birth: free room at the inn, the presenting of gifts to the new baby – whether we believe that it actually happened that way or not, to the other story of Santa and HIS giving of gifts to children.
    I think showing Tyson and Janelle the Unicef video was a great start. One other thing you could do is when you tell them about children who are less fortunate then they are, ask them if they think it would be nice to share with some of those children a few of THEIR toys and suggest they look through some of their older ones and choose something that they think would make someone happy. Then have them wrap it themselves and write a note and have them bring the gifts to whatever organization or Christmas drive is happening in town. They will feel so good and so will you. You can also volunteer as a family to help serve in a soup kitchen or serve Christmas dinners to the homeless, or get little stockings and fill them with $ store things and deliver them to the homeless, or have them bring gifts to the children stuck in hospitals this year – one that will be close to Tyson’s heart I am sure!!!!
    When Tami was 4, the TV was on in the house and a commercial came on for, not Unicef, but some other organization that were asking for donations, showing children in poverty with big sad eyes, and they said something, about …what you can do… Tami turns to me after a few minutes and says, “Aren’t we going to do anything mom?” That stuck in my head and I felt so touched that at 4 years old she was already compassionate towards others, that I couldn’t just let it go. Because of Tami’s innocent question we went to our church and long story short, we put on a concert that year for Ethiopian Relief, (yes that was the commercial – relief for Ethiopia) which in turn led to an even bigger concert the following year, at an even bigger venue – a high-school auditorium, this time to help N. Bronstein’s organization ‘Heal the Children’ fund that helped bring children to Canada for much needed operations… I can truly say…it was my little girl that taught ME a thing or two about compassion with her simple statement… So Merry Christmas to you all, and thanks for the Christmas card which we received yesterday. May you enjoy all through your life, peace of mind, love, and excellent health! xOx xOx xOx xOx Cuz’n Linda

    • Natalie

      Thanks Linda! There are lots of good ideas there! We always do things that support the hospital ( as it is close to our heart) but I can’t help but feel that we can do more. I think you owe your children to teach them about compassion. I think most kids are born with it and if it’s not nurtured it starts to fade as they age. I don’t want that to fade in my family so I have to make an effort to nurture it!

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