Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Special Report: A Less Commercial Holiday Season

A lot of hard work and planning goes into making a very special Christmas. My adult self can see that.  I admit, however, that young Seana was not quite as fond.  To me, Christmas was just another day.  Slightly better, because it involved gifts and good food.  Also slightly worse, because it involved waking up early to the shrill voices of my excitable younger sisters.  I've always been a hibernating sort.  One year, I happened to receive as gifts two of the exact same long haired, surfing Ken doll.  Without a second thought, my mother gave the duplicate to my sister with the promise of a suitable replacement at a later date.  By my math, I was still in the negative... why does she get a bonus gift? 

Sad but true, that age worries a great deal about equality.  It's nearly impossible as a parent to make everything "even."  You can do your best with dollar value, but all the kids will see are the number, sizes, and perceived desirability of the presents! A nearly impossible task! When thinking about how to turn that impression around, we kept going back to the reason(s) for the season, such as community, gratitude, and reflection.  There's no better way to teach kids about the real meaning of the holidays than how to share, care, and be fair.

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or another seasonal holiday, there's often an element of community. Spending time at church, over prayer and light, or just cookies and milk, you feel the warmth of the people that surround you. My son and I recently went to a craft time at a local retirement home that we enjoyed so much.  The babies got social time, the moms made wonderful keepsakes, and the seniors loved the smiles and laughter that filled their halls. 

  • Involve the kids in the process; allow them to suggest favourite prayer or story or song, decorate the tree with sentimental objects, create homemade gifts that emphasize the love that went in to their creation.
  • Focus on family; events and traditions that require real togetherness.
  • Get out in to the community; with parades, pageants, and tons of other events this season, the opportunities to make new memories are all around.

There's no doubt that we live in a commercial world. The subtle increase in toy ads that creep up as early as September impacts what kids want and think they need. Shifting the focus to gratitude is an important counterbalance to this perspective. My aunt, for example, takes time with her kids to donate a box of dog treats to the humane society. Seeing the puppies that don't have homes this year might help them to better take care of their own furry family member.

  • Make donations part of your holiday tradition; be it time, items, or money, there are so many in need and so many ways your family can help.
  • Guide gift lists with an eye to what kids already have in their cupboards; do you need another X? Is there something that we can give up to make room for it?
  • Always include some practical items amongst the presents.  I like the adage "Something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read."

"I always gave age appropriate gifts that included items they needed, rather than just wanted. By age 2 or 3 they were able to understand that the gifts were based on different interests/needs and that everyone was getting what was best for them. I tried to keep it even but it is not always possible. Same when out shopping, not everyone needs or gets a new coat, shoes, etc.- these things are based on need not want and they seemed to understand at a fairly early age." Pam, mother of 2

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