It’s been a while. Thought I’d jump back on here and boss some people around some more.
For the past few years we’ve been doing a particular Christmas/Advent practice, and it works well for our family. It might work for yours too. Have I written about this before? I can’t remember.
I really like getting gifts for people. Sometimes I get “filler” gifts- like little things without much significance- but mostly I try to hold out for that feeling of “yes! this is a good one!” and go with that.
A few years ago, on Christmas morning, we watched our kids tear through a small mountain of gifts. You know the routine. Wide-eyed kids see the pile of presents, we open them, and by present number six or seven, presents one and two are already forgotten. I saw my kids get excited about the book I had thoughtfully picked out, but then move on and forget about it when the bigger box came out from under the tree.
I don’t blame my kids, and I don’t think we were necessarily spoiling them, but it kind of made me a little ill. They just couldn’t sustain excitement for so much. And as the primary gift-finder in the house, I was bummed to see so many special and thoughtful things sort of get passed by in the flurry.
So- our recent practice. We now spread out our Christmas gifts (both material and time/activity) over the season of Advent. Starting the fourth Sunday before Christmas, we give out gifts here and there and do special activities, finishing on Christmas.
My kids have already opened up some books that I picked out for each of them, some clothing, and new shoes. (Or new to them/purchased secondhand because I am my mother’s daughter). I don’t wrap each gift. A few days ago each child had to answer a riddle before I gave them their gift. We played “hot/cold” the time before that, and they found their new books hidden all over the living room. Keep it simple.
Sometimes we do an Advent Adventure (get it?)- like getting our Christmas tree, or getting ice cream at McDonalds. At my kids’ ages, that’s pretty darn special. We walked downtown and watched the Santa Fun Run last weekend. That was how we celebrated Advent that day. Other things we do: movie night, get Frosties and drive around to see Christmas lights, make banana bread for our neighbors, practice random acts of kindness, shop for each others’ presents. Etc etc.
We don’t do something every day. Starting in the fall, I write down little ideas (in here, naturally) as they come to me. Then I pull from those ideas throughout the month of December.
Speaking of the Santa Fun Run, we also took stock last year of what worked and what didn’t, and some things didn’t make the cut this year. We’ve participated in the Santa Fun Run (a one mile run around the downtown Mall with hundreds of other people dressed as Santa), and- frankly- my kids don’t love it. (From the five year old last year: “Why is it called the Fun Run? It’s not fun to run.”) So this year we got bagels and watched instead. The Santa Train, which we rode on last year, also got the axe. It was sort of fun…but just because we did it once doesn’t mean we have to keep doing it. (A helpful reminder after Christmas, as well.)
We will celebrate Christmas with extended family, and there will be more presents to open on Christmas day. I will probably bring one last gift for each child for Christmas morning. But this system works for us because there’s less to open all at once, and more space to enjoy things as they come. I’m a fan.
If opening the mountain of presents on December 25 floats your boat, you should definitely stick with it. I’m not the boss of you. But. But! If it makes you a little bit ill, tradition is not the boss of you either- you can change things up.
I’m curious what Christmas traditions your family sticks to, and what might not make the cut anymore? Feel free to tell me allllllll about it in the comments, if you’d like.