Sustaining Christmas Joy and Gratitude

After more than a month of decorating, baking, shopping, wrapping, and entertaining, the moment arrives: Christmas morning.  The sheer number of hours put into this moment, not to mention the balance on my credit card, already set the tone in my mind:

They had better appreciate all of this.

I still make my kids wait in agony at the top of the stairs while my husband and I  leisurely walk down to make sure Santa has come, make a cup of coffee, and fiddle with the video camera while they writhe in psychological pain upstairs. (This is one family tradition I won’t give up- my own parents made us wait one Christmas morning for my grandparents to drive in from 2 hours away.)

Then we open the floodgates.  We await the squeals of delight we recall from our own childhood and hugs of gratitude as our thoughtfulness, personal sacrifice, and insight into their deepest hidden desires is revealed.

It comes, and it’s beautiful, but it fades.  Quickly.  And it’s not as loud as we heard it in our minds last night at 2am while we were putting together that !@#$% toy.  In fact, we see that fabulous gift tossed aside as we notice greedy eyes cutting over to sibling’s hands and potential hidden crevices under trees, and see the joy slowly get replaced by disappointment and entitlement.

And then it’s over.  Time for breakfast.  I’ll get the bill in the mail.

Then I hear the words that nearly make me go ballistic: “Mom, what can we doooooooo now?”

Ladies and gentlemen, I vowed that day never to repeat this scene, and we are all going to help each other avoid this fate this Christmas season.

n the past few weeks, we have already discussed preemptive strikes against this mentality by first cutting out what we already know doesn’t work for us during the holidays, then stretching out the parts of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Advent that are in line with our values and give us sustainable joy.  Last week, we covered some practical ways on how to do this using inexpensive, environmentally sensitive, and authentic methods that are meant to help us and our loved ones slow down and appreciate the gifts of contentment, love, and gratitude.

Now let’s figure out how to make Christmas last beyond 8am, December 25th.  Here are my ideas- would love to hear more from all of you:

  1. Involve our children more in the process of preparing and giving: We all need to stop doing so much FOR our kids at Christmas and start doing things WITH them.  Have them earn and purchase, or make, gifts for each other, extended family, and you, and wrap themselves.  Their decorations should be decking the halls, not just ours.  And they should be waiting just as much as we for squeals of delight and gratitude upon unwrapping their gifts.
  1. Schedule time, and ways, to use the gifts we will receive.  Making time to celebrate each gift you know someone will receive is a wonderful way to foster appreciation and gratitude.  After allowing everyone to play with the gift of their choosing, plan over the following days ways of giving each gift the attention it deserves.  Play the board game.  Don’t make your child beg for you to find time to extract the action figure from its wrapping – tell him exactly when you’re going to do it, and then play with it with him. Plan a family outing to use the binoculars and flashlights found in the stocking.
  1. Use, celebrate, and share our gifts for 12 Days.  The bulk of the school holiday occurs after Christmas, and even those of us who have to work know that very little usually happens this week.  The number 12 is holy- think about what was accomplished with just 12 disciples, or in 12 months last year.  For the 12 days following Christmas, we can plan ways to celebrate and share our abundance:
    1. Have a “Boxing Day” party either Christmas night (make it “Boxing Day Eve”) or December 26th in which everyone brings a gift to donate, either as a “White Elephant” from that morning (a little sensitivity caution here!), an old toy, or a truly meaningful, themed drive for those less fortunate.  Ask everyone to bring leftovers from their abundance of food, too.  No new spending and cooking needed.
    2. Plan play dates and coffees to share toys, sweets, and gifts.
    3. Schedule a family service project now that you have time.
    4. Put together a family scrapbook and journal of everything you did last year, and look at pictures and video together.
    5. ????? What else could you do with the gifts of time, treasure, talent, and togetherness in these 12 days?

Have fun with all of this- there are so many more wonderful ideas I’m sure you could all share.  The holidays are to be fun, and as today’s Psalm lectionary reading states, we are to “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise.” (Psalm 100:4). Anything we can do to spread this attitude in ourselves, our families, and each other will truly make this season abundant.

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3 responses to “Sustaining Christmas Joy and Gratitude

  1. Nicely done, Jennifer. My cousin has her overly-entitled boys donate one old toy for every new toy they get, even if Santa brought them. She also takes them along when they deliver gifts for a family they adopt through their church.

    I have a friend who, in terms of extended family, started Christmas Day with a worship service of Christmas carols, scripture readings and prayers. Then the family passed the hat, and the money the adults would have spent on vases and Snuggies would go in the hat. Only the kids got gifts, and their mother and father. The siblings felt it was a waste of money to buy gifts for each other. They decided as a family on the charity to receive the donation each year.

  2. Love these ideas, and love the idea of starting off Christmas morning with devotionals, rather than “getting it over with” on Christmas Eve. Thank you!

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