We want to have a Christmas to remember with our families. But that can be a challenging task. We know the real reason for the four weeks leading up to Christmas is to set aside intentional time to prepare for the coming of the Christ child.
But during the holidays, much of what happens around us is fast- paced and hectic. Sometimes it feels like we’re in a race to the Christmas day finish line! But it is possible to slow down. We can choose to create a more meaning-filled season where the focus is less on the chaos around us and more on welcoming the Christ child into our homes and into our hearts.
Here are some options to consider this holiday season:
Create relaxed and loving time as a family – Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, children feel the stress of the season as more family time is consumed with preparation, shopping, parties, social events, benefits, rehearsals, and rushing around. To create balance amid all the busyness, parents can pay attention to their own needs and the needs of each member of their family. This holiday season, make a conscious decision to spend relaxing time with your family. Learn to say “no” to some obligations or events in order to make room for more quality time together.
Set realistic expectations about gifts – Watching television on a Saturday morning, a child may see 50- 60 toy commercials using sophisticated techniques to get them to “need” the item. For children and teens on social media, the bombardment of advertisements is endless. And the holiday ads start as early as three months before Christmas. But parental influence is stronger than commercial messaging and kids want parents to share their sense of values. Be clear about whatever boundaries you set around gift-giving and help your children understand the things you value which don’t involve receiving gifts.
Set an evenly paced holiday season – The holiday season can seem like a mad rush towards Christmas with a tremendous letdown on or after Christmas day. To even the pace of the season, hold off on some important traditions or activities until a week or so before Christmas. Decorate the house inside and out gradually over the entire month of December. Get the decorations out on December 10th, put the tree up on Dec. 20th, and celebrate the twelve days after Christmas starting on Dec. 25th.
Develop strong family traditions – Children perceive that anything they can count on year after year is a tradition. And most of us have more of these hidden traditions that we realize. The holiday food, the customary visits with friends and relatives, special music, and how you display Christmas cards are all family traditions. Talk with your family to find out which holiday traditions are most important and make an effort to do them. And, conversely, if some traditions seem to be less meaningful, consider not doing them this year (you can always do them next year if you truly miss them).
Above all, remember that this holiday season isn’t about what we do or what we get; it’s about the One who came to be among us – the most precious gift of all – Jesus.
The four suggestions in bold come from Unplug The Christmas Machine: How to Have the Christmas You’ve Always Wanted by Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock Staeheli (New York: Quill, 1982).