It’s official. The marketers of Christmas have taken October. My two year old has already asked for our Christmas tree to be put up. Multiple times. Every time we go to the shops there seems to be more and more Christmas stuff.
I’d like this not to be a thing. But since it is a thing, I’ve been thinking about how to use this whole ridiculously long festive build up as a chance to teach gratitude rather than gluttony.
7. Notes in your Advent calendar
You know Advent calendars? You take a little chocolate out for every day of Advent as you count down the four weeks leading up to Christmas. We’ve got a wooden one so we can fill it ourselves and avoid the supermarket variety, which seem to become ever tackier. My husband loves it and has suggested we keep it out year round to count down to other things. Birthdays. The new Game of Thrones season. The start of Advent.
I’m probably not going to keep it out all year, but I am happy to prolong its time on the wall for this one. During Advent as you take something out, put a little note with a word about what you were grateful for today. Maybe it was sunshine, or friends, or dinner. Then use the days following Christmas to open each of the windows again and rediscover those moments of gratitude.
6. Donate to a wishing tree
Lots of stores set up trees that you leave presents under for children who would otherwise miss out at Christmas. Talk to your children about this. Let them choose something that they would like to receive themselves and gift it to someone else. Talk about how that child might feel opening the present. Talk about how your child feels giving the gift. Let your child explore the spirit of giving.
If you have time, you might also like to do some volunteering as a family. Lots of services need extra help around the Christmas season.
5. Make gifts, cards, and wrapping paper
As much as possible, encourage your children to make their gifts, cards, and wrapping paper. Show them that you don’t have to buy everything, and sometimes the most special gifts are those that are homemade with love.
4. Write thank you notes
If your children receive presents from other family or friends, a nice idea is to save the wrapping paper with a note as to who it was from. Then your children can use the paper later to write thank you notes. Re-using the paper, a craft activity, encouraging gratitude, thanking someone for a gift – so many wins.
3. Learn to say no
If you get your children everything on their wish lists, odds are they will be less grateful than if you just get them one or two thoughtful gifts. It’s better to have something that will be treasured and played with (or, better still, read!), than a roomful of toys that are unwrapped and forgotten.
2. Nurture traditions that don’t revolve around presents
This should really go without saying, but sometimes children (and their parents) can get caught up on the materialistic side of the season.
If you are a Christian, you might want to find a family service to attend to listen to the story of Christmas, or find a local carols event.
Spend time with family and friends. Try to make these events joyful and stress-free. Make them times that your children will cherish.
Think of other little things that you can do to build your own traditions. Maybe you spend a day decorating a tree, or watch a particular movie together, or go for a drive to see some Christmas lights. We always read Twas The Night Before Christmas together on Christmas Eve.
Whatever you choose, try to keep the focus and excitement around these things.
1. Model gratitude
If you find yourself complaining about the socks your partner got you, or the fact that you have to spend Christmas day with all the extended family, or that you have to make a big Christmas lunch – stop. Not only are you making your own life miserable, but you are modelling that for your children.
Be grateful that someone has thought of you, that you have people to spend time with, that you have food to cook. Be grateful that you have the opportunity to make Christmas special for someone else. And you might just find that you make it special for yourself too.
What would you add? Do you find it hard to live gratitude at Christmas? Do you hate me for writing a Christmas post in October?