Jump off the Stress Express--Bring Back the Holiday Spirit
with Family Christmas Traditions
by: Chris Wondra
Twas the week before Christmas and all though the house
everything was in shambles. Too much to do and not enough time. More shopping to
be done, presents to wrap, cookies to bake and decorating await. Oh the hustle
and bustle, the extra work and the stress. Is it any wonder you feel like the
If your holiday season rings in more stress than joy, you’re
not alone. Consider these facts:
In a recent survey, 96% of 8-12 year olds included a big
screen TV in their wish list. This despite 73% of parents wanting to limit
their children’s TV time.
It takes an average of 4 months for a credit card user to
pay off what they buy during the holidays
Americans plan to spend $1,564 per household during the
holidays. $1,042 for gifts.
A national survey suggests that 70% of Americans would like
less emphasis put on spending and giving gifts
Helpless to resist the pressures of a “Spend it” society,
many people feel obligated to get on the frenzied commercialized Christmas
train—and they don’t know how to get off.
If your holiday season tends to exhaust rather than uplift,
maybe it’s time to wrestle the holidays from the clutches of commercialism. Pump
joy and love back into your holiday filling it with the true spirit of
What do kids really want?
The crowds, the cash, the Christmas Crunch. The wrapping, the
toys, the noise. It’s burning you out—right? So why do we do it? For most, the
typical answer is not surprising, “We do it for the kids.” For many people
Christmas is about children and bringing them as much joy as possible But think
for a moment about your own childhood. What made the holiday seasons special for
Not sure your answer best represents the feelings of most
kids? Think again. We asked the kids. A recent survey of 7th graders reveals
their fondest memories related to the holiday season and Christmas in
particular. You may be surprised to see what they had to say.
“The thing I like the most is being able to see all of my
relatives. We get together at my grandparents' houses and have big meals, which
leads to another good part. The food. We usually have big hams and mashed
potatoes and other good stuff. Then I feel like I won't be able to eat for
another week." Ryan, age 12
"I always have a good time at Christmas. On Christmas Eve we
stay up late and play video games. Then in the morning I get my stocking. Then I
wake up my family and we open up our presents and eat pixie sticks and then we
eat a big breakfast. After that we go outside. We also play board games. I love
Christmas." Meg, age 12
"All of my Christmas's have been jolly. I think my best
memory has been spending time with my family." Devin, age 12
"The first thing I think about when somebody mentions
Christmas is picking out and putting up a tree and decorating it.” Jessica, age
Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Sure, he took four quotes
from a stack that suited his purpose.” Not true. Of the 75 students surveyed
only 12 even mentioned unwrapping presents as a significant memory for them.
Family gatherings and family activities created the fondest memories for 84% of
If you are racking up credit card debt to create the perfect
memory for your kids, you are wasting time and your money.
Creating a Joyful Season
Bill McKibben, author of Hundred Dollar Holiday, gives this
piece of advice:
“I guess the most important thing would be to think about whether or not the
things you’re doing are actually making the season joyful for you or not. Keep
real careful track and try to figure out if that’s what you really want from the
Holidays. You can’t change your life or your celebrating patterns overnight . .
.but there’s plenty of time to observe yourself and find what makes you feel
happy and joyful.”
Still at a loss? Not sure less will actually translate into
more? Start slowly. Changing life patterns and resisting social pressures takes
time. It may be too late to significantly change this year’s celebration
activities. But you still have time to lay the groundwork for next year—and
years to come. Here are some activities guaranteed to bring you closer to the
ones you love.
Start Your Family Christmas
Find new ways to kindle the spirit
of fun and togetherness.
after opening stockings take birdseed and bread out to the woods or your
nearest park, and spread it for the birds. St. Francis began the tradition,
saying that animals too deserve to celebrate Christmas. What better
celebration for the birds on a cold winter day than to have easy access to
food? It’s a great way to remind yourself about the true spirit of Christmas.
ask your children what they most want to do as a family. Offer, suggestions:
snowball fights, fort building, movie night, game night, crafts, hike in the
woods or baking.
Let your kids
research and choose a charity and an amount of money to donate. Take your kids
to your local charity drop off stations like Toys for Tots, which accepts new,
packaged toys. Or donate to local churches accepting canned goods for those
less fortunate at Christmas.
Take a trip to your
local food shelf or bring the family to your nearest toys for tots drop off
Participate in the
Audubon Society's Christmas Bird Count
Have a cookie
decorating party. Make batches of cut- out Christmas cookies ahead of time.
Provide a variety of colored icings, shakers of colored sprinkles, little
stars and silver balls and let the children decorate the cookies. Then serve
the decorated confections accompanied by hot chocolate with peppermint sticks,
cider with cinnamon sticks.
charades or test your knowledge of Christmas trivia with family quiz contest
at: FamilyGames.com You’ll
find Novice, Regular and Expert level quizzes. Present small wrapped gifts for
For more ideas visit Santa’s Favorite Links
Give Non-commercial Gifts (from www.newdream.org)
Frame a picture of
the family home and send it to friends and relatives who can’t make it home.
wishes with a photo cards and family newsletters. Let children help make your
own cards. Hewlett Packard makes it easy with Home Fun for the Holidays.
Reconnect. Call an
old friend or write to someone you haven’t seen in awhile.
Give away the last
great book you bought.
Give your child a
box of items that can be assembled into a homemade playhouse or tree house:
Scrap wood cardboard, small hammer, non-toxic paint and a pulley.
Consider gifts that
bring out child's creativity: kids cookbook, craft kit, durable tools for
building, sheet music, magnifying glass for studying bugs, plants, rocks,
Write a story with
the kids as the main characters
personalize Christmas stockings.
With a little effort, you can get off the commercialized
Christmas train. Get back into the spirit of Christmas. Start family traditions.
Change your buying and gift-giving habits. Discover new ways to share the joy of
the Christmas season with your kids, your family and your friends. Take small
steps today and tomorrow your holiday memories will be filled with laughter,
joy, and Christmas magic. Put a little holiday spirit back into your “week