In my childhood I found Christmas to be the most magical time of the year, and not for the presents. The sparkle, the lights, the mystery of Santa. The school parties, long breaks, making snowmen with my Aunt Charlotte. The food and the loud laughter of my parents, my uncles, my aunts and cousins filling my Grandma’s house are the things I remember most and in these changing times, I will treasure forever.

When I had my own children, I followed along with those traditions, even adding a couple of new traditions ourselves. However. For me, the sparkle and mystery and magic of Christmas has worn off, being replaced with the gaping black hole that is stress and materialism. It’s become a time that I wish I could slow down and even stop, or just skip right through entirely. Until this year.

You see, I’ve had some truly rough Christmases in my adult life. I started a family right before the great recession of 2008, and the years following hit us hard, so hard in fact that I can vividly remember standing outside of a Salvation Army in Akron, Ohio, waiting 2 hours to get in and gather some gifts for my kids because I had absolutely no other way to ensure that their Christmas spirit wouldn’t be crushed when Santa didn’t come.

When things turned around a few years ago, I definitely started to overcompensate for the previous years. Stressing myself out over finding the perfect gifts, spending obscene amounts of  money that could be much better used elsewhere, shopping at all hours of the day and night sometimes wondering about my physical safety to just to make sure that there was a mountain of beautifully wrapped gifts waiting for my kids Christmas morning.

I would make sure that my kids wanted for nothing.

A couple of years ago some of the big retail stores started opening on Thanksgiving to satisfy the needs of the greedy consumers. When I first heard about this, I started to realize that Christmas  no longer held the values that I had grown up with. That deep family bond that you can only obtain with your family, a box of cheap wine and a cheese and cracker platter mixed with the smell of stale cigarettes and baked goods.

Americans are willingly robbing families of their time together during Thanksgiving, in order to rush directly into Christmas. I had a mix of negative emotions, and it all boiled down to being completely appalled with our current society.

That, combined with a slight sense of entitlement that I’ve observed in my 9 and 10 year old has brought me to one conclusion.

This year, I’m turning it around. I’m taking back Christmas.

I decided to give the family some questions to answer. Here they are –

  • Name 5 things you NEED
  • Name 3 things you WANT
  • Name 2 new experiences you’d like to have next year
  • Name 2 activities you’d like to do on our next road trip
  • Name 2 or 3 ways you’d like to give back to our community.

I was worried about their reaction, as they have become pretty accustomed to being a tad spoiled. I was surprised and thrilled to hear them reacting positively to the idea. I heard one of my daughters say “It’s pretty cool that we can get what we need!” I took that as a sign that I was doing the right thing, because apparently while I was spending so much time, effort and money spoiling my family year after year, I was definitely missing what they needed most.

Everyone asked to go to a water park. My little ones asked for a museum. They all seemed to have a hard time filling out the needs and wants to entirety, and my husbands list has a bunch of TBA’s. They all have interesting ideas on giving back to the community, which tells me that charity is something we are going to have to work on over the next year. I personally pledge to drop a few dollars at every Salvation Army bell ringer I see between now and Christmas.

So, now that I have the information, I intend to include adventures for the coming year as part of their Christmas gift. After all, its a gift that truly does keep on giving.

Other than the list, I’ll get them each a new pair of comfy pj’s and new socks and underwear. A new book, and some sort of creative outlet. After all, its tradition.

I’m still learning. I hope you are too. I’d love to know how your family does the holidays, and if you have any fun traditions or new ideas! What are your kids asking for this year? what are YOU asking for this year?

Happy Holidays~

Patty

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