Like the fictional Cratchit family in Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol”, most of us realize that Christmas isn’t about the things that money can buy, yet even that family was excited to be able to have a big fat goose for Christmas dinner, courtesy of a reformed Scrooge.
Many children in North America experience a vastly different Christmas than the Cratchit family had, with brightly wrapped boxes filled with presents extending many yards out from under the tree into the living room; special Christmas outfits; and large store bought stockings filled with candy and toys. It seems that parents feel pressure to make Christmas present unwrapping last, even though the children rip and tear the paper off one present after another, not stopping to play with or thank the giver for the gift.
However, those probably won’t be the memories that come to mind when they are grown and parents themselves. Instead, they are more likely to think back fondly on the simple family celebrations and traditions your family has. Celebrations and traditions that don’t require massive outlays of money or stacks of presents under the tree.
What are some of these simple celebrations?
Decorate the house as a family.
Why decorate? Decorating sets the season apart for you and your family, letting you know with every glance that it is a special time of year.
Most of us put up at least some changes in decor (in addition to our Christmas tree), but you don’t need boxes of shiny ornaments or lighted moving yard scenes to make your home memorable at Christmas.
Whatever you do to decorate, whether it is to clip evergreen boughs and arrange them or have the kids draw Christmas trees on paper then cut them out and hang them around, whatever you do, make it a special event, a family event. Put on some Christmas music. Carry forward an old family tradition, telling the family story as your new family replicates it, or create a new tradition together as a family.
Celebrate your gratitude through giving.
It has been scientifically proven that folks who give get an endorphin spike, making them fell happy. Help your kids pick out toys they no longer want, to give to a local charity. Do a special giving project together and let the kids play a big part – whether it be trying to get on a list to serve together at the local soup kitchen or making and delivering cookies for an elder in a nursing home.
Establish a tradition to get the tree.
What you do each year to get and decorate that tree will be remembered! My family used to wait until late Christmas Eve, then hop in the car and find a tree lot still open. We would select the best tree, drag it home in the trunk and begin decorating together right away.
Perhaps you have an artificial tree, you can still make a tradition and a memory by getting it out together and decorating it. Or maybe, you have a family outing to go to a Christmas tree farm to cut your own.
When the family gathers, sing Christmas songs together. When I was young, neighbors still went around in groups caroling in the neighborhood. Afterwards we would gather at one of the homes for cookies and hot chocolate. At family gatherings, we were each expected to prepare a performance of some sort to share with the family – whether it be to tell a story, read a bible verse, play an instrument or sing a song.
Attend a seasonal event together.
Almost all areas on the continent have special recurring Christmas events. Pick one and make it parr of your family holiday celebration.
For example, when I was little, our city still had huge downtown department stores – like Macy’s and Famous-Barr. These department stores decorated their windows to draw in the shoppers. The decorations included movable figures, model trains which passer bys could start and stop by pressing a special section of the glass and of course, music. Each year my aunts gave Mom and Dad a break and took us downtown to view the window magic. This was over 50 years ago and I still have those warm memories.
Tell readers what you remember most fondly from your Christmas past.