Our family celebrates Christmas but the current state of the holiday leaves me feeling sad at times. As our society has become more affluent and materialistic, the real meaning of Christmas has been all but lost. Some parents believe they need to shower their kids with gifts so they won’t feel deprived. Others give things to make them feel better about working long hours or to keep up with the family next door. Yet solely focusing on material goods is never really fulfilling, for children or adults. What children really want and really need is our love. So we need to give meaningful gifts, not merely shower our children with material wealth.
I have a friend who got so tired of her teenage sons arguing about how many Christmas gifts they would receive that she decided not to give them anything one Christmas. That year the family did not even put up a Christmas tree, only a Nativity set. On Christmas Day, they served meals to the homeless. Extreme? Maybe. But it certainly got her sons’ attention and afterwards, their attitudes improved.
Have the holidays lost their meaning for you? Try some of these ideas to help you make Christmas more meaningful — and memorable.
• Do for others, especially those who are alone or lonely during the holidays. This doesn’t just mean the poor. Think of friends who have lost a loved one, who have just moved to town, or whose children have moved away. Invite them over for a home-cooked meal; make them cookies or candy. Send a card and include a note.
• From an early age, stress the importance of giving during the holidays to your children. Don’t focus so much on receiving. “Adopt” a child for the holidays. The Salvation Army and other worthy charities sponsor “Angel Trees” with names of underprivileged children and the items they would like for Christmas. Without these programs, these children would likely not receive Christmas gifts. If it is too expensive for you to shoulder alone, ask friends to join you in purchasing gifts for a needy child.
• Don’t worry about having your house perfectly decorated for Christmas or having an opulently ornamented Christmas tree. Handmade decorations — especially those made by your children — have more meaning than the latest Sarabella or Christopher Radko creation.
• Set a budget for Christmas gifts and stick to it. At our house, we give three gifts to each child because the Christ child received three gifts from the wise men who visited him.
• Start traditions and consistently follow them each holiday season. These can include decorating a tree, setting up the Nativity scene, reading the Christmas story, feeding the hungry, going to church, and delivering food baskets to the needy.
• Finally, slow down. You do not have to attend every holiday event you’re invited to. If you feel overwhelmed with invitations and obligations, attend the ones that are most meaningful. Politely decline the others.
Remember, the focus of the holidays should be on loving and giving to others. You can surround yourself with glitz and glamour, but loneliness will pervade without the warm love of family and friends. Focus on these most important things during December and you will indeed enjoy a happier, more meaningful holiday season.
— Bargain Beth is written by Memphis freelance writer and bargain hunter Beth Bartholomew.