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Making Your Christmas Tradition-Filled Instead of Consumer-Focused

Updated on September 30, 2021
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Shell is a writer who enjoys helping others gain new perspectives on life and love.


Have you often wondered how you could change your family's Christmas surrounded with materialism to one immersed in tradition? How you can inspire your kids to shorten their Christmas lists? How you can make the day less about presents to one another and more about being gifts to one another?

Getting Buy In From The Family

The first step to changing the way your family views Christmas is to talk with them. Here are some ideas for how to approach each age group. You may approach everyone individually or you may have one large gathering in which you identify with each age group at once. However you do it, stand your ground if whining begins and remind your children of the values you instilled in them as you have raised them. I have found it best to engage everyone and get ideas so it is a collective change of celebration and everyone feels he/she had a part in developing the new tradition.

Younger Children

If your child is under the age of 5, they have most likely not yet been surrounded with the materialism that you wish to remove. You can explain that you would like to celebrate the reason for the season instead of honor one another with gifts. Explain that just as on our birthdays, our friends do not exchange gifts with one another, you want this holiday to be about Jesus' birth. If you are not a believer, you may even suggest that because the day is a Christian holiday that you do not celebrate, you feel it is no different than celebrating Yom Kippur or Chinese New Year if you are not of Jewish or Chinese descent. However, since you still would like the day to be special for your family, you would like to start a tradition of playing board games, telling stories, going sledding, or whatever it is that you would like to do in lieu of exchanging gifts.

Older Children, Not Yet On Their Own

If your child is older than 5 and younger than 22, this may be a harder change for him/her. However, by explaining that you have realized the patterns of the past Christmases are not ones you would like to repeat, you can engage them in conversation and have them help with ideas of how to make the Christmas memorable. Most kids have something they collect, maybe you make it so the gifts have to be related to their collections. Maybe you make a rule that only handmade gifts can be exchanged. Maybe you set a limit on the dollar amount. There are many options you have for explaining that you would like to stop focusing on the presents and instead focus on a tradition that you would like their help in implementing.

Grown Children

Your children who have made it through college, are out on their own, and/or can look beyond themselves to understanding "family" and what it really means, will be the easiest to convince if they have made it beyond the doors of your home. The time together will be meaningful, the savings over not exchanging gifts will be valuable, and the idea of starting a tradition that can be passed down to their children one day (or today) may be very intriguing. Simply talk with them about what they wished had been different in the past Christmases. By hearing your children talk about what they wished had been different, you may find a common pattern for a tradition in the future!

Implementing the Change

After you have spoken with everyone and have ideas for the traditions, it is time to implement the change. Note the number of presents allowed to be exchanged, express the importance of sticking to this rule, and share that you are happy to have such a giving family who is willing to make this change with you. Ensure all members understand what will be happening and what the new tradition will be. Let others outside of the family or who are not close by know of the change as well so they will honor your decision.

Ideas for Tradition-Oriented Christmases

Lost for ideas of how you can move from a Christmas about the gifts to a Christmas engulfed in tradition and memories? Here are some from my family and friends' families:

  • Limit your gift giving to a theme each year - Football fan families may decide to trade gifts from each others' favorite teams with a limit on the amount one can spend, hiking enthusiasts may trade hiking supply bags for one another, board game fanatics may exchange board games.
  • Select an organization to donate to - Instead of exchanging gifts with one another, select an organization and each members donates a predetermined amount to the charity. The family then goes together to present the check while spending a day learning more about the organization. Some families may consider mentoring or serving at the organization a few times a year.
  • Spend the day playing board games,participating in a family activity, or watching movies.
  • Spend the day in the kitchen preparing the evening meal. Give young kids cookies to bake or napkins to fold. Have the family chef teach everyone his/her family recipe.
  • Trade hobbies for the day. Spend the day teaching one another about what excites you. Photographers and painters may team up and create a scrapbook together. Cooking enthusiasts and hiking enthusiasts can share tips on vegan cooking that can stay fresh while out in the wilderness.
  • Start a family scrapbook of the memories you made throughout the year. Every Christmas, spend the day going through the pictures together and getting the entire family involved in the creation of the pages.
  • Donate your time to a local charity who provides meals to those without a family on Christmas day. Spend an hour serving at your local soup kitchen. Spend a few hours prior to the holiday packaging baskets for the less fortunate in your area.
  • Help another family have a Christmas and start a new tradition. Bring them a tree, bring some cookie dough to make ornaments, provide them with a gift card for food, and pay their electricity for a month. Encourage them to pay the favor forward the following year by doing something nice for another family, as their income and abilities allow.

How Will You Change Your Family Legacy?

What ideas will you put into place? How do you celebrate this wonderful time of year? How will you change your family legacy and create a Christmas season and day that is forever remembered by the family and passed down through the generations?


Do You Have a Special Family Tradition for the Holiday Season?

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© 2011 Shell Vera


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