Many people approach Christmas as a day when everything has to be perfect. The house needs to be beautifully decorated with just the right trimmings. The ornaments on the tree have to be spaced and hung in exactly the right way. Dinner has to be a gourmet feast, and all the people you spend Christmas with need to get along and enjoy each other’s company.
In reality, the house will probably be in a state of disarray if you have children. The tree will have less than perfect decorations, especially if you are like us and cherish the baubles the kids have made which have so much meaning, but don’t necessarily look good together. The meal may or may not turn out perfectly and one of the kids (or adults) is sure to have a meltdown at some point during the day.
We all know we are merely human and will never achieve perfection yet we continue to seek it. One of the problems is the headlong rush into Christmas day, then suddenly it’s over. You can appreciate Christmas more by slowing down and savoring the day.
One of the ways we slow down is to use a very elaborate process for opening gifts. The children take the gifts from under the tree and pass them out to each individual. When everyone has their presents in a pile in front of them, we start with the youngest, who opens ONE present. When that one present is open, and everyone has oohhed and aahhed over it, the next oldest opens ONE present. We go through the family in rotation from youngest to oldest with each person opening ONE present when it’s their turn, till all presents are opened.
This slow process accomplishes several things, the best of which is that slowing down the gift opening on Christmas Day fosters an attitude of gratitude. Usually the kids get really interested in one of the presents before their next turn to open a gift, and they enjoy the gifts a lot more and they appreciate what they have, instead of moving quickly to the next one. We’ve even stopped opening presents for a few hours while the children play with their gifts. It eliminates the frantic ‘what’s next’ attitude when there is a big build up to Christmas presents, then and the presents take less than 5 minutes to tear open.
The other thing that happens is that the oldest people (usually parents and grandparents) generally have the fewest gifts and drop out of the present opening rotation earliest. This situation results in the kids noticing that mom or grandma got fewer gifts, so you have lots of opportunities for talking about what’s really important as far as gift giving and appreciating what you get whether it’s a lot or a little.
Giving children an opportunity to be grateful trains them in the verse from 1 Thessalonians 5:18 “In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”
Here are some other ideas for family traditions which will bring everyone together for fun:
- Build a fire and roast marshmallows or make s’mores.
- Pick a favorite family game and have a tournament – Spoons; I doubt it; Monopoly; Uno, Go Fish, etc.
- Look at pictures from past Christmases.
- Donate your time on Christmas day to work at a soup kitchen as a family serving meals to the homeless.
- Watch traditional family movies on Christmas Day – The Nativity Story; It’s a Wonderful Life; Santa Clause; Polar Express: A Christmas Story; The Year Without Santa Claus: Home Alone; Charlie Brown Christmas, etc.
- Put together a Christmas jigsaw puzzle. Have it set up on a card table, so people can work on it sporadically throughout the day.
- Read a Christmas story–maybe have different people read different part in voices appropriate to the character. Even the little ones can get involved is you have them say some key phrases during the story–it’s fun to make it up as you go along.
- Take a hike. After Christmas dinner, get out and walk as a way to get some exercise and also use that excess energy the kids have from all the excitement.
- Play flag football.
- Everybody take a nap – even if it’s just snoozing by the fire staring at the tree lights.
- Play in the snow; build a snowman; have a snowball fight; make snow angels.
- Go to the beach–walk, take pictures, play outdoor games.
- Make crafts–even Christmas decorations for next year.
By consciously making plans to slow down and enjoy the holidays. “Then you and your family… shall make merry over all these good things which the LORD, your God, has given you.” Deuteronomy 26:11.
When you really think about it; what do want to accomplish during the Christmas season? Don’t you want to build memories you and your family can enjoy the rest of your life? Memories centered around celebrating the birth of Christ; memories centered around helping less fortunate; memories centered around enjoying one another.
This Christmas season, don’t let the world make you discontent with it’s focus on buying. Instead, learn to be content by developing traditions that are meaningful and special to your family but not expensive. Use the Christmas holidays to create and celebrate traditions with your loved ones so they will all have memories to last a life time.
No matter how messy the house is, how lopsided the tree is, whether the dinner is a feast or the mashed potatoes are lumpy and even if Uncle Fred and Aunt Myrtle are arguing again, Christ is still in your Christmas. And that’s all you really need to have a perfect Christmas!