Christmas, a wonderful time of year that’s filled with long lists of things to do and gifts to buy. When Christmas finally does arrive many of us are left feeling exhausted and thankful that it’s finally over. Can you relate? If yes, you’ll be happy to hear that Christmas doesn’t have to be this way. Before being swept away by holiday to-do lists and tasks, take a moment to sit down and read about twelve ways to make Christmas a more meaningful celebration for your family.
1. Learn about your family’s cultural heritage.
I come from a French Canadian family and my cultural heritage has had a very significant impact on the way our family celebrates Christmas. Leading up to Christmas we light candles on our Advent wreath, as Christmas approaches we decorate a Christmas tree and on Christmas Eve we celebrate the réveillon. Learn about your own family’s cultural heritage by remembering how you celebrated Christmas as a child, or by asking your parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents how they celebrated Christmas when they were children. Draw on their knowledge and experiences to make Christmas more meaningful for your family.
2. Create simple family traditions.
Family traditions are a wonderful way to make Christmas more meaningful for your family. Traditions don’t need to be complicated, simple is often best. One tradition that I started with my children was reading a Christmas book on each day of December leading up to Christmas. There are so many simple yet wonderful Christmas traditions, here are a few ideas:
- Bake cookies and share them with neighbours, friends and family.
- Decorate a Christmas tree together.
- Turn your Elf on the Shelf into a Kindness Elf.
- Go Christmas caroling or sing carols at home.
- Sleep one night around the Christmas tree.
- Make a family gingerbread house.
- Drive around your town at night and enjoy the Christmas lights.
3. Slow down and let go of expectations.
As Christmas approaches we become harried and frazzled. There’s a plethora of gifts to buy, events to go to and pressure to get everything “just right”. By the time Christmas arrives we’re left feeling drained and sick. Last year I made the decision to slow down during December by committing to fewer events and letting go of certain expectations like Christmas baking. Making this decision was freeing and it gave our family time to truly enjoy Advent and Christmas together.
4. Prepare for Christmas by keeping Advent.
When most people think of Advent, an image of chocolate filled calendars come to mind. As a child those were my favourite, but Advent is much more than that. Advent is a time to prepare our hearts during the four weeks leading up to Christmas. I love Advent because is forces me to slow down, simplify and re-focus.
- Make or buy an Advent spiral.
- Create an Advent book basket.
- Together with your family make an Advent wreath.
- Build anticipation for Christmas with the Jesse Tree.
5. Buy fewer gifts.
It takes courage to step away from the commercialism that surrounds Christmas. Starting in November we’re bombarded with constant pressure to buy more, that more stuff will make everyone happier. It is a lovely thing to give a well thought-out gift, especially when there is a need, but there are other ways to show kindness, love and generosity without having to buy a plethora of presents.
- Give the gift of adventure (ski lessons, a ski pass, rock climbing lessons).
- Give the gift of time (a mom-daughter night out, a special date night).
- Give the gift of service (childcare, homemade meals, massage).
6. Give handmade gifts.
Another idea is to make gifts, instead of buying them. Handmade gifts are often much less expensive than store bought gifts and children really enjoy making them. These days there are many wonderful ideas for handmade gifts on the internet and in books. Choose something simple that you can do with your children. Check out my Handmade Christmas Pinterest page that my children and I compiled for some fun ideas.
7. Cultivate gratitude.
Gratitude is when we acknowledge the good things in life. This way of thinking helps us connect with others and is shown to make us happier.
Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships. – In Praise of Gratitude
The holiday season is a wonderful time to cultivate gratitude and there are many ways to do so together as a family.
- Write a Thank-You card or note and encourage your children to do the same.
- Teach your children to be grateful with a 7-Day Gratitude Challenge.
- Use family mealtimes as a time to talk about what you are grateful for.
- Start a family gratitude journal and write in it together at the end of each day.
- Cultivate gratitude through prayers and/or meditation.
8. Volunteer as a family.
When the topic of volunteering comes up the automatic response is “I’m too busy” or “I don’t have time”. It’s true, we are all so very busy, but volunteering is just as important for others as it is for your family. You see, volunteering has many unexpected benefits like improving self-esteem, building empathy and even helping you feel more connected. During the holiday season there are many ways to volunteer, from helping out with Christmas hampers, serving meals to visiting the sick and elderly.
One of the great ironies of life is this: He or she who serves almost always benefits more than he or she who is served.” – Gordon Hinckle
9. Give to an important cause.
We don’t need to look far to find need. Being generous with what we have not only shows compassion but, like volunteering, has a positive impact on our own lives. Generosity has been shown to help people feel better, mentally and physically. This holiday season be generous with your money, time and talent and support a cause that you are passionate about.
- Donate money to a local, national or international charity.
- Bring food donations to your local soup kitchen.
- Purchase food or gifts for your local Christmas hampers.
10. Celebrate the feast of Saint Nicholas. (December 6th)
Santa Claus is based on a real person, Saint Nicolas (Santa = Saint, Claus = Nicholas). This man lived a very long time ago and was known for his generosity towards the poor. In many cultures, people celebrate the feast of St. Nicolas on December 6th. Children will place their shoes by the fireplace and the next morning discover them filled with treats (oranges, chocolate coins). So, yes Santa Claus is real! Resource: St. Nicholas Centre.
11. Celebrate with a faith community.
Christmas is a celebration of hope and joy. Christians celebrate the birth of their Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and other faith communities have their own special celebrations at this time of year too. Jewish people celebrate Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights and remember the re-dedication of the second Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. Some also celebrate the winter solstice. Celebrating with a faith community is a wonderful way to add meaning to the celebration of Christmas.
12. Keep on celebrating Christmas for twelve days!
Twelve days! Isn’t boxing day the day we “box” up all our decorations and haul our tree to the curb? Actually, for the longest time Christmas was celebrated for twelve days, from December 25th to January 5th, and in some place around the world Christmas is still celebrated in this way. One reason our family enjoys celebrating Christmas for twelve days is that there’s no pressure to have Christmas day go perfectly right, if there’s something we miss, or can’t do, it’s fine. We have twelve days to celebrate!