“Presence” Vs “Presents” – How to Have a Creative Holiday Season

It is no coincidence that “presence” and “presents” sound so similar. What do you remember the most from your childhood holidays? The presents? Or was it the time spent in the presence of friends and family, doing things together to celebrate the season?

Radio, television, billboards and yes, even the internet, would have you believe that Christmas is all about the presents. Your worth and success as a parent is determined by how many packages are under the tree Christmas morning. Seems a little silly and sad, doesn’t it?

There are many ways you can cut down on the commercialism of the holidays and get back to what really matters – creating memories and spending time together as a family. Here are some ideas for having a less commercial Christmas season.

Plan Ahead:

The easiest way to have a memory-filled holiday season is figuring out what you want. What is important to your family? Do some research and pre-planning and figure out the big things. Will you be going anywhere for Christmas? Do you have commitments or traditions you need to plan for? Do you have family downtime built into your schedule? What activities and events are going on that your family would like to experience?

Next, have a family brainstorming session and include all your family- even the little ones can give you their input! Discuss different options for family activities and make sure you include something for everyone. Create a calendar together and put it in a prominent place. This will allow you to see what is going on next and will provide you with a reminder that you have things that are important to your family scheduled and it will make it easier to say no to things that do not fit with your family’s holiday plan.

Embrace the Commercialism:

There is no escaping the commercialism of the holidays. I saw my first commercial for Christmas-colored cereal on TV at around 10:40 pm, October 31; that’s one thousand, two hundred ninety-seven hours and twenty minutes before Christmas, or seven hundred twenty-one hours and twenty minutes before December. Your family would have to go on a complete media fast to avoid overexposure of holiday commercialism, and while that’s not a bad idea, you can also turn commercialism into a learning tool.

Even very young children can pick out holiday advertisements. It is never to early to discuss media and their messages with kids.

When you see or hear an advertisement, examine it with your child. What product are they marketing? What words do they use to make it sound really neat? What makes this product or version of the product different than normal? How much use or fun would you get out of a product like this? How much allowance would you have to say to get this product? Would having this product make you happy?

Children may not notice many of the marketing messages they are exposed to, but these messages can still influence them. Why not control HOW it influences them instead of leaving it to chance?

Every time your child sees or hears an advertisement, get them to point it out and keep score. This number will climb frighteningly fast. Decide to cut the commercialism by giving back. For every advertisement your child can spot and discuss with you, donate 10 cents (or whatever amount you like) to your family’s charity of choice, or put 10 cents away to help buy creative activity supplies. This exercise allows for lots of education and a chance to bond with your kids over the very advertisements that are promoting consumerism and commercialism.

Advent Activity Time:

Many families have an advent calendar for Christmas. Most of these are commercially-made cardboard calendars that contain rather bad chocolate. It doesn’t have to be this way! You can start an Advent Calendar tradition that will create great memories very easily.

One way to do this is to create advent calendar coupons – one for each child for each day of the month of December. These should include quality time coupons. Some might have to be redeemed that day, or others can be kept and redeemed whenever the child wants. These could be for things like playing a family game together, a day trip to volunteer at a local charity or a visit to a museum or other worthy ways to spend a day, one extra bedtime story, a special “date” night with each parent, making a favorite treat together, etc. You can give these coupons each day by themselves or with a single wrapped candy or piece of chocolate. You could mix lists of things you love about your child, or admire about them with the coupons. Each child is unique and it is important to let them know you see it!

By having a plan and identifying what is important to your family, you have the opportunity to create lots of memories and new traditions while giving your kids the best present possible: being present in the moment and enjoying the holidays together.