But when we think about Christmas being for kids, it's important to realize that "Christmas" is essentially what we make of it. For the Christians in the audience, there's a good chance that means keeping Jesus and the Nativity at the center of Christmas. Regardless of whether you celebrate a sacred or secular Christmas, though, I think it's important to be intentional about what you want Christmas to be, especially for those of us who are parents, who basically define Christmas within our own household (in, of course, the larger cultural context).
What we make of Christmas likely will influence what our children make of Christmas for themselves and their children. We not only create the Christmas experiences that they will look back on and say "Remember that one Christmas when..." or "Remember how on Christmas we would always..." but I also believe that how we approach Christmas (and every other day, but I'm talking about Christmas now) will have a profound influence on who our children become and what they come to value.
For instance, most of us at least pay lip service to the idea that we don't want Christmas to be all about toys and expensive things and consumerism. As with most lessons, our actions speak at least as loudly as our words do. No matter what we say that's critical of the materialism of Christmas, if we ourselves spend wildly trying to find "the perfect" gift or to buy more and more expensive gifts to make this Christmas the best Christmas ever... well, I trust you see where I'm going here.
With this in mind, I wanted to share something that came recently in a magazine called Family Fun, which my mother subscribed us to (thanks Mom!). Kristin Bock of Oshkosh Wisconsin offered the Idea of the Month in the most recent issue, and it boils down to this: each Christmas, each of their children receives "just three presents: a book, a toy or other coveted item, and an experience." So they emphasize the importance of books, they give one conventional gift, and then they emphasize the importance of experiences over stuff. As the mother describes it:
We weren't sure how that last one would be received, so on Christmas morning Norman and I held out bresth as each child opened a thin package with a folder and a note inside. The folder included descriptions of three "experience packages," and the note instructed the recipient to choose one.A couple other points:
For example, Isaac's options were a day trip to a cave (and some spending money for the gift shop), a trip to a local aviation museum, complete with an airplane ride, and an outdoor photography lesson as well as a photo editing session in the studio. Our son couldn't contain his enthusiasm. After much thought, he asked if he could pick two and have one count as his birthday gift in February!
- each child gets his or her own experience, and the experiences are tailored to that child's particular interests
- they keep costs down by using family and friends to serve as tour guides, hosts, or teachers (they don't mention it, but this also adds a deeper relational element to the experience)
- for expensive trips, only one parent goes along